Supply Chain Leadership Series Ep 9: Adult Learning & Development Planning

By Published On: January 26, 2023

Host: Chris Gaffney

Co-Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple

In this Episode:

We focus on Development Planning and Adult Learning. Listen and learn how to get started and apply the 70 20 10 concept that helps you weave your development and learning into the job, making the time and space for development. Learn how to own your development plan and how to work with your supervisor and your team to be the most effective at not just developing yourself, but leading others as well. Learn what is different about being an adult learner and what motivates you and others. There are a variety of paths and different ways that people learn best. Find out how to set and chart your path to development that helps you and your team keep advancing.

Listen to this Episode!

What is the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series?

The Supply Chain Careers Leadership series expands its previous content format into a more in-depth focus on leadership development. This program is a series of 10+ episodes that are hosted by our very own supply chain executive, Chris Gaffney. These episodes explore subject matter and topics that relate to excelling as a leader in the business world, much of which Chris has gleaned as VP of Supply Chain at Coca-Cola. Familiar faces and fellow supply chain leaders, Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle chime in with their experience and knowledge, all of which can be used by supply chain leaders to develop and advance their careers.

[00:00:59] Rodney Apple: Welcome back to the Supply Chain Careers Podcast. This is our Leadership Series featuring Chris Gaffney as your host. I’m Rodney Apple, your co-host, along with Mike Ogle. Today’s episode, which is episode number nine, is on Development Planning and Adult Learning and applying the 70 20 10 concept. So we’re excited to get this one going, Chris.

So, if you’re new to the leadership series, we do encourage you to go back and revisit episodes one through eight. We started out with avoiding the regrettable career move, moved over to work-life balance, total leadership in all four quadrants. We covered blind spots, how to identify and overcome them. Improving your personal productivity. Collaboration both internally and externally. What to do if you’re stuck in a rut at work? How to boost your confidence and understand the imposter syndrome. And we covered in our most recent episode, building out your internal and external networks.

[00:02:08] Mike Ogle: And Chris, how does episode nine on development planning and adult learning fit into our leadership series at this point?

[00:02:16] Chris Gaffney: Mike, we’ve talked about this series covering four larger themes. One being how to work effectively and create the time and space for development. The second being, how do you differentiate in the workplace? The fourth one is, where am I headed? Building a career path. And the third one out of order, because we’re gonna talk about it today, is how do I grow? So, this episode is centerpiece in how do I grow. I do think it has big implications for your career path, and actually the approach that we’re gonna show offers thoughts on how you actually accomplish this within a busy work setting. And I think the good news is this episode has a lot for the individual, but also a lot for a manager working with team members, building out a development plan.

As always, I think about these episodes from my own experience, both as an individual, and ultimately as a team leader and a mentor. I’ve been very fortunate in the companies that I went to work with. And frankly, even when I was in education, I had teachers who were just fundamentally supportive of me growing.

So beyond just the basics of being in a class, I had teachers who offered me experiences of thinking about how to learn. So, I think the educational side was a good setting for me, but it transferred well into the professional setting. And I think we’re gonna talk about adult learning, which is how do you take the model that you used when you were a student and apply it in the work world.

I just have been very lucky along the way to be in places where this was a priority. I started my career at Frito Lay, and I think in my first year I took a very structured class on professional speaking, public speaking that has formed my thoughts on public speaking to this day. In that same environment at Frito, they taught us how to read a profit and loss statement six months into the job there. So, I’ve worked at many companies where I didn’t understand how the business worked financially, but at Frito, they taught us hands-on and we were able to apply it immediately. So, it was just a great culture as well as seeing mentorship and action there.

I then went to work at AJC, in a small family owned business, but I was in one of my first roles leading others and the senior folks there invested in me and I got to go to the Center for Creative Leadership, and that was a formative experience for me. And I think we might have talked about it in another podcast, and I got videotaped there and it was a horror show of how I interacted in a setting with others, and it was very humbling to receive that feedback. I think we talked about that in the Blind Spot episode, but that was also formative for me in terms of balancing my own interaction when I was in another setting, I think that ties into collaboration.

And then obviously at Coca-Cola, just a tremendous amount of structured leadership. learning, teaching, guidance to me as an individual and professional, and that was where I saw 70 20 10 in action. So just a lot of things that I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn from some of that painful for me as an individual, but very helpful to apply both for myself and others.

I would just say in all of those cases and in all of those job settings, there was a lot expected of me as an individual. So I was that classic super busy person. How did I find that space? So, I think that was really the key themes of this series is creating that space for development. And that really is why I think this episode is important, is I think we’ve got some great thoughts on how to make that work in today’s world. And I also learned that making the development of your teams a priority as a manager was a key to engagement. Keeping exceptional employees when you might be competing with other companies that were offering a lot of money, you would say, I’m investing in you. Your professional development for this role and for the future, that’s a reason for you to be here with us, and it created differential performance. So, there’s a lot there, but I think that was really a big motive for me in getting this episode on our list.

So, Mike and Rodney, I’ve got a lot out there, but I’d love as always to get your perspectives, your experiences on this topic of development planning.

[00:06:53] Mike Ogle: All right, I’ll go first. As far as development was concerned, having an interest was never a challenge for me. I always enjoyed reading just about anything I could possibly get my hands on. I subscribed to everything under the sun related to supply chain, logistics, material handling, and manufacturing. And I was even at one point a member of 11 different organizations because the company ended up supporting that and would let me put in that kind of spending and went to a variety of their conferences every year.

But as time went by, the piles of publications in my office grew as my responsibilities grew, and most of those issues just sat around and went unread, eventually thrown away. So, the conferences I went to provided great opportunities for learning and growth, but once I got back to the office, a busy office and things to do, they were quickly forgotten. Business cards, it would mostly get set aside to get to later, whatever later meant.

That point that you made Chris, about being able to make that space for some real development is very important. As it becomes part of the job, not just to listen and read, but to truly set aside some time. To not just explore and discover, but pick out a few new ideas, schedule the follow up. You know, those challenges still exist for me today with my work at App State and with our supply chain careers business. So I’m very much looking forward to the episode and some of the ways that you really need to incorporate this both into your own development and for people that you lead.

[00:08:28] Rodney Apple: Good stuff, Mike. And from my vantage point, I think just being in recruiting my whole career, a lot of what you learn is from on the job, just getting in there and doing it. It’s not rocket science, right? And in our world, here at SCM Talent Group, we recruit across the full end-to-end supply chain discipline, which is complicated in itself. Now, when you factor in that we also recruit across just about every industry, then you have to learn how supply chain differs from one industry to another, where there’s commonalities, where there’s differences. And then you also have to factor in working with companies of all sizes, from early stage startups to Fortune 15.

So that’s a lot to learn. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and I’m still learning. But, as I look at development plans with our own team, when we hire folks, we are assessing a few different things. What is their current skill level and knowledge just on the recruiting side, early stage, they’ve been doing it for a long time, right? From there, we assess their supply chain experience and knowledge. It’s very rare that we can find somebody that’s got the end-to-end. So usually we’re looking for someone just hired someone starting in a couple weeks that’s only done manufacturing. So, I know I’m gonna have to expand her knowledge and experience across the end-to-end and the that’ll apply to the industries and it just, a lot of time to do that. So, we kind of meet them where they’re at when it comes to that initial training, onboarding, and we’ve got things we can layer in, depending on their skill level. And then from there, we like to assign them searches that’s right in the middle of their comfort zone. So, when this new person starts, we’ll hopefully have something in manufacturing that we can offer her. The goal there is to learn our way of doing things, process systems, tools, etc. Plus, we want them to kind of taste success early on, and not get too timid, with working way outside of their comfort zone. But where the real development, occurs is, once we’re up to speed on how we do things, it’s throwing them curve balls. So that means assigning them searches that are really outside of their comfort zone in different areas of the supply chain. And then we just layer in across the industries. The best way to learn really is through talking. We’re talking to people day in, day out. That’s how I learn a lot of what I know is through just talking to supply chain professionals across all the different functions, learning the industries.

So, it’s very repetitive to what I did. We’ve got a lot of internal training we’ve developed in-house over the last 10 or so years. We’ve also done quite a a few external training. We subscribe to a lot of things as well from learning development, webinars and we supplement through role playing or through shadowing others, kind of that internal mentorship, type model.

Over time you advance your recruiting skills, your knowledge and experience across the supply chain industries, companies of all shapes and sizes and you continue to grow from there, but it makes you quite a versatile person when you can take any search from any area of supply chain, any industry, at any level, for any size company, when you can get to that level, you’ve done a lot. So that’s kind of how we look at things from a development planning perspective here at SCM Talent Group.

[00:11:45] Mike Ogle: And Chris, now that Rodney and I have shared some ideas or some experiences on the employer and employee side of development, why is this so hard to do and why is it so critical?

[00:11:58] Chris Gaffney: So, Mike, I think it’s a number of things. Early in career, you have employees who’ve come out of the academic world. Some of them are just relieved to get out of the school environment and they didn’t enjoy, you know, what might be 17, 18 years of structured formal education. So, some of ’em relieved and say, well, now I’m done with that. I can go to work. And in their mind,they’re thinking, I’m done with learning and development. The truth is in the world today. You won’t be competitive for very long with whatever you brought out of an academic setting, because the world is changing. Beyond that, the truth is most people enter a job with a portion of the qualifications needed to really be successful in the role. So in most cases, for someone to really succeed, they’ve gotta learn from day one on the job. And at some point in time, over a period of time, years most cases, they will have graduated from that job and will be competitive for another job, and there’ll be time when they’re not really learning in that job that they can move on. So for both the employee and the employer, there’s heavy motive, right?

I know a lot of people late in career, they’re concerned that they are either perceived or actually falling behind the times, and they look at that as a real existential risk to their ability to stay in the workforce. And so, there’s a different motive later in their career. So, I think there’s definitely a very strong why for individuals and manager to be structured in their thinking around this. And obviously the flip side is it’s busy and, and I’m really empathetic in the last couple of years I’ve heard from a lot of people that we were in this wartime kind of mindset as difficult as things were. And it was all about getting results and getting things done. And many employees worry that their ability to learn was sacrificed in that. So, I think we want to try to say regardless of the work environment you are in, there is a how, and we also think there’s a very clear what.

[00:14:05] Rodney Apple: So, that’s a fair point Chris. And has been crazy these last couple years. A lot of companies just trying to survive and get product to their customers and lots and lots of fires. So, learning and develop may have, you know, been put on hold for many people. But when you think about it, in terms of how you get started, what are your recommendations there?

[00:14:25] Chris Gaffney: So clearly the first piece of this is what do you need to work on? And that is something that there’s a portion of individuals who are just very self-aware. They’ve listened to our blind spot episode. They are constantly receiving feedback, so they have a really honest assessment of what’s required for them to be successful. And these same people have a very good long view of what they want to achieve in their career, and they connect the now to the future. Those people are rare, right? The majority of people need help in those perspectives. So I think for both the manager and the employee using some different approaches to align on what needs to be on this development plan are really critical.

I would say as a leader, what I have seen over time is, you have to get employees to own their own development plan. And I mean that in a variety of ways. They’ve gotta be committed to doing the work, but they also have to honestly see if there’s a gap. And that takes time. And I saw for me, in my career, it might be 10 or 15 years, when I finally realized I was hearing something and it was holding me back and I resisted. And when I finally said, I really have to work on this. And for me it was personal productivity. I was one of those folks in, I honestly think somebody said to me, you’re an expert at multitasking. And I ultimately realized that was the terrible insult because what they saw me was not paying attention in meetings and doing other things cuz I was actually totally disorganized.

So that was where, kind of come to grips moment for me. So I think the outcome of this, what process is an employee really owning their development plan and hopefully a manager or leader, aligning with the employees so that the employee is actually working on things that will help them succeed in their current role, but will position them for the future.

So what I would like to do in this what section is actually plug a very nice simple book that a prior podcast guest of ours, Gonzalo Cordova, but over the course of his career since he worked with me at Coke, he’s become passionate about development. So he’s written a very short book, Individual Development Plan 2.0, Master Your Development in Four Practical Steps. We get no juice from Gonzalo, but I think it’s a nice simple book and it’s cheap and you can get your hands on it. He’s great at the first three sections. There you go, Rodney’s got a copy of Gonzalo’s book and we’ll put a link in the show notes to make sure people can get their hands on it. But he’s great about the first piece of that, which is assessing your capabilities. This is that whole reflective piece of this and making sure you’re honest about where you have gaps. At the same time, you know where you have strengths and really just getting to an understanding of you, not just in your work but in your non-work life, understanding where you need to go to work. And he obviously encourages this to be a discussion with the manager. And I think that’s that first step is the employee doing that self-assessment. He’s also very thoughtful in saying, this is not just about where you sit now. You may have been me and need to work on your personal organization in order to effectively get your work done in the current job, but by the same token, if you aspire to be the chief supply chain officer and you’re in an analytical role, you get the right feedback and somebody says, you’re never gonna be a CSCO if you are not willing to take on hands-on operational leadership experiences, so in the course of your development plan over the years, we’ve gotta put in those next job, future job. You’re gonna have to go work at that plan or that DC and ultimately aspire to lead in an operational setting if you aspire to be a chief supply chain officer cuz our experience says nine out of 10 of those folks have had hands-on experience. Well, that’s part of that aligning current needs to future needs.

And I think the other thing that Gonzalo really gets to, which I think is important, is this idea of meaningful capabilities and a nearer term focus. And he focuses  in no regrets. And I think as an example, but not for everyone, but for a lot of people, if you are mid-career from a supply chain standpoint, With the increase in data and analytics that are out there for almost everyone I know who’s trying to grow in the world of supply chain, continuing to sharpen the saw and go deeper in your knowledge of an application of analytics, both for an individual contributor and a manager, guiding people in analytical areas, you’ve gotta come up with those meaningful few that are going to be critical. So, I really think Gonzalo has a simple recipe here. And I would say that the key for me in this space as an individual and a manager, is that honest assessment. And that really gets to being open to feedback. Once you have that list of things, then we can figure out how to bring it to life.

[00:19:43] Mike Ogle: And I guess once you have that assessment, once you’ve determined those areas for development, how do you suggest putting that into action?

[00:19:51] Chris Gaffney: And Mike, I struggled with that. I think early in my career I was one of those people who said, I just need to come up with a list of classes that I need to go to. And we did get into that place early in my career at Coke where we were very invested in classroom learning. We did it at universities, we brought in external people. There were a lot of schedule a day to go take this class. And I do recall sitting in my desk, and I looked up on my shelf and there were like 30 binders up there, and I said, I went to that class. I can open it up. There will be handwritten notes for me. There were likely commitments to action, but I had a bad feeling in my stomach where I said, I did not really make good use of what I learned there. And it’s almost like my algebra book that if I opened it up, I would say I don’t really remember this stuff. So, I went to a class and I didn’t apply it. So I think that’s where this idea of how to deal with the time and maybe even some of the science that this came to life. So we’re going to get into three or four pieces that I think really make the difference in how this really works in a professional setting.

[00:21:13] Rodney Apple: And so, Chris, we’re referring to having some discipline, which ties in some kind of a framework from a development perspective. Is there anything in particular that you recommend in terms of how to structure this?

[00:21:28] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, and I think Rodney, and I wonder if this was around the time when you and I were at Coke together, but I think one of the lightning bolts that I had in my learning and development career was the introduction to the 70 20 10 idea, and it really solves the problem that I mentioned before is that pure focus on classroom learning, A) is not practical from a time standpoint. and in a professional life, it doesn’t work that well. So the 70 20 10 is pretty simple. It basically suggests that 70% of your real learning is on the job, and is integral to the work that you’re doing day-to-day, so you can actually learn while you’re delivering results in your core accountabilities.

That was a game changer for me. The 20% is in that space of developmental relationships. I say mentoring, it can be peer to peer, but it’s really learning and in most cases. It may be your manager, but I think the best of that 20 is people beyond your employee manager relationship. I don’t discount that. I think that’s always there, but I think the gold nuggets in that 20% are when you’re with people who have a vested interest in you, can see you in action, can give you feedback on both where you have a need, but can also see you progressing and say you’re, I can see a difference, encouragement, that type of thing.

But then there are still really critical, like you’re not gonna learn Python or R you know, to get serious or get deeper into machine learning without some technical training, so I don’t want to completely discount that, but that balance really helped me start to say, there’s a way this can actually work. So 70, 20 10 is kind of the meat and potatoes of this real applied development planning practice.

[00:23:31] Rodney Apple: Yeah, that I think that I’ve learned the hard way as well, where we would do training once a month and we would talk about, okay, we need our recruiters to make some advancements in lead generation or account management. And we’d go through the training and okay, everybody knows what to do and, you know, you really have to have a discipline to apply it,  they’re on the job. And then have others that facilitate that feedback and coaching as well. And when you have those three things together, you start seeing the progress, but when you don’t, when any of those elements are missing, it can certainly put some roadblocks in place, is what I’ve learned the hard way.

[00:24:09] Chris Gaffney: The nice thing about this is 70 20 10 is a very widely studied and widely communicated concept. So for our listeners there’s super open source content out there that’ll help you see this. Even if this is not something that your company practices, it’s also not controversial. So, if you brought it in and said to your manager, I’d like to think about my development plan in this way, or you were a manager and your company didn’t do it, you brought it to your employees, I think you’re really safe. Because the kind of things that are gonna show up in that 70% column are gonna be things like working on your presentation skills and signing up for a special project, looking for, you know, an extra job or an extra role inside of your team to expand what you’re doing, going and seeing your supplier or customer’s site or location so you can have better context on what’s going on. Adding in after action reports for routines or projects so that all can learn and get better. So, there’s just so many things in a 70% that can be great.

There’s a lot of good study out there that, I know lots of people who say, I aspire to lead others, but I’m in an individual contributor role. How does that work in a 70%? Well, you go to your boss and say, I can’t lead people in this role, but can I lead the project team for the next 30 days, 60 days, 90 days? Then I’m at least getting exposure in certain elements that will be important for me to advocate that I could lead people. Hey, I led a project team. I provided them direction. I assigned tasks. Everyone had unique roles. I tracked accountability, I provided feedback. We course corrected, we delivered a result. That’s the kind of thing on a 70% plan that is a great enabler for that, a person who aspires to lead people in the next role.

[BREAK at 26:16] [26:41] I think there’s just great stuff that’s out there and we’ve talked a lot about the 20% piece of it and I do say mentoring, but a lot of it’s also how do you get exposure to others.

And you can do that again internally and externally. So, in a large company, you might go connect with all the other people who are involved in analytics around your company and connect and learn from them. You might connect with people. If you’re in the supply chain, go work with customer teams so you can more know more about what they’re trying to do to win with customers. So, there’s lots of things. Industry work. Mike talked about this a lot. That 20% may be in an industry connection. So, lots of stuff out there. So, I think the good news is, this is a way to think about how to bring this to life in what you’re doing, and I know what Gonzalo says and we’ll repeat it, I think a few more times in here is you’re also not trying to solve world hunger. Once you get into this, you can say, I can think of lots of things I need to work on. The good news is get ’em down on a list. We can talk a little bit later around how to chunk those up into what’s logical to achieve this year versus in the future.

[00:27:58] Mike Ogle: And Chris, in my work at App State, I live in a world of student learning that can be very different, but of course has some similarities. So what do we really need to know about that transition to becoming an adult learner?

[00:28:11] Chris Gaffney: As I said earlier on, there’s a subset of people who are passionate learners, and it’s great to have those folks around you. They are exceptional, and in most cases they’re in the minority, but you definitely wanna support them and getting them organized around 70 20 10 is great. I think for many in the work world, this idea of adult learning is important because not everybody loved school when they were in that setting.

Not everybody was extremely effective. So a lot of people have battle scars when it comes to the concept of formal learning. I think we want to go at this idea of adult learning and saying, A), the good news is you still have the mental tools that you used when you were in school. And I’ve always said, when I talk to a lot of folks about adult learning, some of it is just reaffirmation to say, don’t worry, you’ve still got it.

But there are some real challenges that we’ve gotta help ourselves and others with around adult learning. The first one, and the good news is we’ve already talked about it, is lack of time. And so 70 20 10 I think is kind of our antidote for that to say we’re gonna be thoughtful about how we bring this into your core work, and then you just need to be intentional about it. I mentioned my experience at the Center for Creative Leadership when I left there realizing I was talking way too much when I was in settings with others for many years, and sometimes when I backslide, I still do it. I would walk into a meeting setting and say, we’re working on this discussion item today, but I have to modulate my communication. There are 10 people in here. I can only speak every 10 times. So, I would literally sit with my paper and pencil in front of me. And if I could speak first, but then I had to wait till 10 other people said something and then I could speak again, and it caused me to pause. In many cases, I would write down what I thought was so important so that I could resist the urge to say it. And by the time my turn came around, I could look and say, is this still topical? Or relevant. If it was, I’d bring it in. If it had already been said, then I continued to listen and engage. So, that’s that time thing. You can work on it inside of your work.

The second one is definitely self-doubt and a lot of people just are not confident. They may feel like they are that old dog and I fight that a lot. It’s definitely not true. And I think part of that manager mentor role is to encourage people to say, you can do this. We can break this up into small enough pieces and we can give you actions that will actually make a difference and give you confidence that you can grow. So, I think that self-doubt is something that we have to work on as a leader or a mentor. There is some science to this concept of neuroplasticity. Our brains do change, right? You always say if a child is exposed to multiple languages under the age of five, they can be trilingual by the time they’re age 10. Very difficult for me to try to learn Spanish. It’s just gonna take a little bit more time. It doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable.

I do think we need to be thoughtful when we talk about formal learning and I’ve, I’ve had a lot of folks who had both a time and a financial challenge, like, I really need to take this grad program in advanced analytics. If I’m gonna be there, will the company help me pay for this? Those are real. When you were in school you typically had parents who could help you. So I think we need to be careful and thoughtful about that. But I know lots of people who’ve gone to grad school at night. I know people who’ve worked with their company on special arrangements to say, will you pay a portion of this? I’ll commit to stay for a period of time. And I think the last that I will say is lack of support. And I think all we wanna make sure is that we’re supportive of folks in their learning journey.

[00:32:13] Mike Ogle: Hey Chris, there’s a lot of theories that are out there on adult learning, but what’s your take on the ones that matter?

[00:32:20] Chris Gaffney: So I think there are a couple things, Mike, that are unique to adults. Again, different than we were younger when we were in school and the teacher said, this is the syllabus. Unless you had grad students, most people didn’t debate it, right? They were like, Okay, I guess this is what we’re gonna work on. I think it’s just a fact that adults, they need to understand why they need to learn something. So, it’s not unreasonable to say, and here’s why it’s important. If we don’t get you moving on understanding the how the balance sheet works you’re never gonna be effective in working on large capital projects, and that’s gonna limit your success in this role, and that’s gonna limit our ability to support your advancement. So that why piece I think is important. And that gets to the second one. They need motivation. If you don’t get to work on this, you’re not gonna be competitive for other roles. Cuz the theory also says we need to take advantage of their prior knowledge and experience, because that’s a foundation. What you learned in fourth grade took advantage of what you learned in third grade. And I think being overt with employees about that also helps sometimes with confidence, like you can do this. All this is gonna do is build on something you already know. I think it’s a reality that adult learning requires some element of being self-directed and most people want to own that, but I think the practical reality is they do need to, and I might, we probably say students need to be self-directed as well, doesn’t work. They’ve gotta go home and do the work. But I think then there are a couple things that get back to our 70 20 10. Task-oriented learning works well. You’ve gotta chunk it up into pieces for people.

And there are two other things that I think are really nice when it comes to work and it ties back to 70 20 10 is a lot of the theory says that learning by doing experiential learning is actually the best way to take on a new task. You’re never gonna learn to play golf by playing the video game. You’ve gotta be out there on the driving range and then get out there on the course after you’ve had some lessons. And project learning is great, and project learning is proven in theory and in a lot of the work environment, projects are part of how you bring something new into a business and or how you advance capability. So, the good news is the theory works well with, with our idea around adult learning.

[00:34:45] Rodney Apple: So Chris, you’ve covered, kind of the theory side. How do you put it into practice or play? When you’re sitting down looking at that development plan, any recommendations or advice there?

[00:34:57] Chris Gaffney: So, I think the first piece there that we should again, be cognizant of as individuals, whether it’s for your own development plan or for a manager, is that people learn in different ways. So, beyond the research, people individually have different styles of how they learn. I was with someone the other day and they were furiously taking notes during a meeting and they weren’t the person assigned to take the notes. And I asked, I said, why do you have so many notes? And they said, this is how I digest what’s coming at me in that meeting. This is how I learn. That’s not for everybody. So I think it’s important that we understand that there are different styles. The good news is there are, again, open source instruments that someone can take that help you learn a little bit more about what your best learning style is. I think it will always say that it’s not binary, but maybe you learn more effectively in this way, less effectively. So being aware of that, I think is an easy part of conscious thinking around development planning. But I think there are a few simple pieces of it.

Some people really need concrete experiences A few people really gonna be in the space where they need to be more of an observer in it, and that’s how they learn. Well, some people are very big on conceptual kind of learning and that may not work in all settings, but that’s how people come to it. Then you’ve gotta figure that out. And other people love to do it through experimentation and I won’t go much more into that, but I think it’s important for us to just understand that there are different ways and if you really want to be good at it, it’s better to figure out who am I and how do I learn best?

[00:36:52] Mike Ogle: So Chris, can you give us a quick summary of how to tie all this together?

[00:36:56] Chris Gaffney: Mike, for me, what I found to work and what I still recommend for my teams today is when we’re building annual performance objectives, we refresh a development plan on a single page, and it’s a bit of a nine box, so it’s, it is a nine box. It’s as simple as that. On one axis, we put the 70 20 10. And on the other axis, typically the right to left axis, we’ll talk about one or two time scales. If it’s somebody who is really needing to be very narrow in their focus and has struggled to get the time, we’re probably gonna say, what’s the first quarter? What’s the rest of the year? What’s on our someday list so we don’t lose the future. And give them very narrow focus and in any one of those boxes where there’s an intersection of, in the experiences section for the next 90 days, we’re probably gonna give them one thing to work on. And it may be you will be the note taker in our management routines next for the next 90 days because we need you to be able to capture what’s going on and this is something you struggle with that that’s totally random, but it’s something very specific. Rest of the year may be in the exposure section, we may say we want you to create a mentoring connection with someone who will be able to support you in your current role. So, so it’s something super finite.

And in the education, same thing. It may be one thing cuz we’re very careful about that, but we may say, you know, we’re dealing with E-com as a business channel. We need you to go to an e-com conference or, or something that we need you to understand some e-com software platform that we’re gonna be using to sell the customers. And so we want you to go to a class on it. So, I think the nine box is a very simple format. It is something that a manager and employee can track and see results. I’d rather have too few things on there than too many. If they make progress, we can pull things off the someday list. I actually think it’s fine to have more things on the Someday list, but in those near end columns, you wanna be pretty finite.

If you’ve got an employee who’s really focused on development, then it’s more like, what are we working on in this job? What are we working on for the next job? And what’s on the someday list? And in many cases, that may be somebody who’s been on your team, they’re well on the track. In an all honesty, what they’re trying to do is put the finishing touches on, you know, a two or three year stint in this role and you, and they are actually working on their next move. A lot of their exposure might be getting visibility to next level hiring managers, getting feedback on what’s gonna be required for them to be competitive in that role. If the next level is a people manager role, you and your employer joint venturing on, you’ve got to showcase their ability to provide feedback and give guidance to others as individual contributors.

So that you and they can be an advocate to that hiring manager say, this person’s now ready to lead people. So I think those are the two ways that I would use the tool. I think it’s ideal that an employee and a manager are aligned. They agree on both what the learning objectives are and what the learning actions are so the manager can support and you can then use management routines to say, are we making progress? And how do we either continue the progress or how we course correct? So, it may seem simple, but I think for our audience, this is how I got to a place where I could effectively advance and own my own development, and I saw this to be something that employees could digest and see this as feasible but also meaningful.

[00:41:03] Mike Ogle: One thing I wanted to ask, possibly, this is a little bit of a wild card, but wanted to ask, when you’ve got a whole team of people. And you’re trying to show it’s not just kind of a lip service thing. It’s not just something that you’re listing that you put on the to-do list, but seeing how others are responding. Is there any cross sharing that goes across the team rather than just manager to individual?

[00:41:26] Chris Gaffney: I think that’s a great question, Mike, and I’ve applied that in a number of different ways. If you’re a leader, you’ve gotta role model development. And in many cases what I would do with elements of my development plan is I would let my team know what I’m gonna be working on. I would be very overt. I had a long discussion over the course of the middle of my career as I got involved in more complex business projects. I got a master’s in engineering and there were times in my life where I said, you know, I should have gotten an MBA. And I said, how am I gonna solve for that? I spent two years working with a CFO peer and mentor to help me get to a greater level of competence in understanding the P&L and the balance sheet. In order for me to feel confident that I was actually, I had the financial acumen necessary to be effective at that VP level. I let my team know that. And I said, I’m working with Doug, Doug Herndon, who will probably one day be on our our pod, and Doug was very kind and worked with me patiently over the years to do that, but I think being visible around that as a leader. And then many cases then I would say to employees is if you’re working on behavioral things, if you are comfortable, I would like you to get a peer mentor in the team who will be in routines with us and say, I’m working on reducing my ums when I speak. Will you keep a ledger and then after the meeting, tell me how I did. And then you give permission, I think you never, never want to put employees on the spot, but if you can role model that and encourage folks to do that, that accountability sometimes provides just that little extra incentive or motivation to kind of stay on it.

And then people can ask you, how are you doing? You know, I’ve talked before I run. The best thing you could do as a runner is say, I’ve signed up for the marathon in eight months. Cuz you know that the people you see every time they see you, they will say, how’s that marathon training going? And it, when you don’t want to get up one morning, you’ll say, I don’t wanna say in front of those folks, say I gave up on that. So, a little bit of public accountability is actually a nice incentive. And Mike, that was a great question.

[00:43:37] Rodney Apple: Good stuff. Chris. This has been wonderful. I have learned a lot and I will be applying some of this myself and our own team. When you talk about career development for supply chain professionals, if you’re looking for some content advice, we have a plethora on our website at Just head on over to Career Resources, check out the insights tab. We’ve got a content hub where you can choose from all kinds of categories under the career development umbrella and drill down into very specific articles. And if you have liked what you heard, subscribe at your favorite podcast platform, drop us a rating, that would be super helpful. And if you can think of anyone that might, could benefit from this material, we’d love for you to share it with them.

To close things out, Chris would love to hear what we’re gonna get into next, which will be our 10th episode of the Leadership series.

[00:44:31] Chris Gaffney: It’s amazing that we’re up to 10 and I I’m now encouraged that we have a lot more, I’m not even gonna think about what it will be, but one of the things that we have focused on in the first 10 is really the idea of self-development. And I think we’ll continue to have some episodes on that, but I think we’re going to start blending in the idea of how you lead others. Many of our audience listeners either do lead others, or aspire to do so and wanna start thinking about what it’s gonna take. So, we’re gonna introduce the topic of servant leadership. I have benefited from being led by some wonderful servant leaders over my time. That’s a topic that I think is common. It’s not universal, but it’s a very common topic. So, I think it will be a good one for us, and I think it, it’ll be a good start for us to start blending in some of these ideas around what does it take to lead others.

[00:45:31] Rodney Apple: Sounds great. Well, we’re looking forward to the next episode. Thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time around.


Who is Chris Gaffney?

  • Principal at ECG providing Supply Chain Services to the CPG Industry
  • 25 Years w/ Coca-Cola holding Supply Chain leadership roles:
    • VP of Global Strategic Supply Chain
    • President of Global Supply
    • SVP of Product Supply Systems
    • VP of Logistics for North America