“Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” – Jack Welch
Research has shown that as leaders rise up in the ranks, their proficiency in nurturing talent declines rather than increases.
Too often, they’re not promoted based on their managerial ability. They’re promoted because of the skills that allowed them to excel in their previous role—not in the role they’re about to step into. When that continuously happens, organizations aren’t maximizing the potential of their leaders—or getting the most out of their workforce as a whole. Leaders should always be working to develop new leaders, helping their employees develop the skillsets that will allow them to effectively manage others.
Other factors may also inhibit leaders from investing time in developing their employees’ leadership abilities. They might feel like they’re so busy juggling time-sensitive projects and deadlines that they don’t have time to focus on the development of new leaders. They’re tasked with achieving bottom-line results, and they don’t see talent development as a measurable goal.
The ability to develop people’s talent is one of the most vital qualities for high-level leaders. At the executive level, cultivating effective teams is perhaps the most essential role of a leader—meaning the complexity of managing people and nurturing their growth increases. They need to further their people’s growth not just as employees but as leaders. Thus, smart organizations create succession plans that include training and mentoring in how to support employees in their development.
First, identify which leaders need to start more effectively guiding their people’s development. Then, take action to help them grow as leaders rather than just bosses.
How can you develop your talent? Here are seven key steps to developing your organization’s leaders.
1. Schedule regular one-on-one sessions with them once a week. During these sessions, speak about your own experiences in helping others to grow.
2. Identify skilled leaders in high-level positions in your organization, and hold leadership seminars where they share best practices with a large group of managers. These sessions can include:
- Stories that illustrate how they learned to put leadership skills into practice and the techniques they use regularly.
- Role-playing scenarios with peers that let them put the tools they’ve shared into practice.
- On-the-job simulations where a coach assumes the role of direct report and asks for guidance in a particular area.
- Q&A sessions where managers can ask for clarity on points of confusion.
3. Ask the seminar attendees to present workshops on what they’ve learned to their own teams, which will solidify their knowledge while enhancing their direct reports’ growth.
4. Prompt them to learn by doing, asking them to step into situations on the job where they can use their newfound knowledge. For instance, ask them to identify one area in which a direct report needs coaching, and to begin providing that guidance.
- Encourage risk-taking as budding leaders grow their skills. Putting a new technique or idea into practice means taking a risk, but by trying new things, they’ll learn what works for them—and then perfect it.
- Give them plenty of mentorship as they navigate this new terrain, modeling the skills you want them to share with others. Through hands-on learning supported by the advice of a trusted coach, they’ll turn knowledge into skills.
- Prompt them to engage in peer mentoring, teaming up with another seminar attendee to jointly enhance their leadership skills by coaching one another. By talking through questions that arise on a weekly basis (or more frequently) and giving one another feedback on their progress, they’ll gain valuable coaching experience.
5. Connect each leader with a mentor, and give them opportunities to interact with multiple high-level leaders who can inspire their growth and share advice.
- Encourage them to attend a conference and speak with five inspirational leaders, which can provide a great deal of motivation, wisdom, and helpful connections.
- Hold lunches where groups of budding leaders can meet potential mentors and talk with them informally, promoting relationship-building.
6. Ask leaders to connect their own direct reports with other leaders who can support their growth by providing valuable perspectives, such as people in other organizational functions.
7. Identify additional resources that can help develop your talented leaders Here are a few ideas:
- Hold trainings by an outside professional, asking leaders to again take notes and present the key points to their direct reports.
- Develop presentations that can help leaders present ongoing workshops to their own teams. Include plenty of discussion prompts in each module, with the aim of sparking conversation and active discovery on the part of both leaders and their direct reports.
- Place a library of books on leadership in the break room.
As you develop your talent, you can grow a teaching culture within your organization. At all levels of the organization, leaders will continue striving to develop other leaders, seeing that ability as a hallmark of success. This emphasis on supporting others’ growth will bring countless benefits, promoting an engaged workforce, strong communication, and enhanced productivity throughout the workplace.
Joel is a master of helping people reach their full leadership potential. Contact him to learn how he can help you get more from your people by developing leaders at all levels of your organization.