Over the last few decades, the corporate structure of the world has started to change, particularly in the last few years. The workforce has begun to demand, and companies have begun to recognize, the importance of a “people-first” mentality, where workers are viewed as individuals rather than the just a number in the workforce. With this shift, organizations have begun to put more burden on managers to develop those who are listed under them on the organizational chart.
Leaders aren’t around just to bark orders anymore. The modern leader must be equipped to help their team succeed through effective leadership, training, coaching, and development, and by doing so, improving performance. So, how do you accomplish this?
Gone are the days of managers being promoted just because they have been there the longest or because they are the most experienced producer on their team. In order to be successful, a modern-day leader needs to be able to develop those around them to also be great leaders. A big portion of that is letting your team do the job they were hired to do.
Whenever I talk about this topic, I often think about the early 2000s television drama, The West Wing. In several episodes throughout the series, they say “Let Barlet be Barlet” when referencing letting President Barlet be himself and do what he does best; Letting him make the decisions that he was elected to make. This idea applies heavily in effective leadership.
Leadership is more about being able to improve and encourage the others around you than it is being good at the tasks you’re assigned at a lower level. Sure, you need to have a basic understanding of everything you are asking your team to do, but you don’t need to be an expert at it. That’s why you hired them! You spent a lot of time looking at candidates and selecting the best one, now trust that you have made the right decision and trust that they will do what they were hired to do. “Let Bartlet be Bartlet.”
Coaching is Key
Once you overcome your control issues and are able to let your team do what they were hired to do, then you can focus on ensuring you have the most successful team possible. This means giving them the resources they need to be successful. Yes, this includes things like computers, training, and other technical items necessary to do the job. However, it should also include providing the proper support and feedback to be successful.
Trusting them to do their job is important, but that doesn’t mean you wash your hands of everything. You still need to offer feedback, guidance, and oversight. Trusting your team also comes with a certain amount of risk and not everything will always go as planned. When mistakes happen, use those opportunities to coach your team. Don’t approach it from the standpoint of looking for someone to blame. Instead, approach is from the angle of “What are we going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” You will be far better off if your team views these as learning opportunities, rather than opportunities to place blame or punish people.
Developing these skills as a leader will help keep team morale high, which will also aid in the success and productivity of your team.
If you’ve provided great coaching and approached challenges as learning opportunities, you will already be well on your way to having a culture of high employee engagement. This is a challenge in recent times, where workers typically are only staying at companies for 2-3 years. Having a team that is not engaged will undoubtedly lead to lower productivity, lower overall performance, high turnover, and frustration.
Aside from effective ongoing coaching, there are several other ways to ensure high employee engagement. Once of those is through investing in their development. Too many leaders ask themselves “What if I invest in developing them and they leave?” The bigger question is “What if you don’t invest in them?” If you don’t invest in them, you have two possible outcomes. The first is that they don’t remain engaged, get frustrated, and ultimately quit to move on to another company. The second outcome is far worse. That is, what if you don’t invest in developing and they stay? How effective will they be in their role? Will that produce negativity that spreads throughout your team? Now that investment isn’t looking too bad, is it?
If you done your job well and hired the right people, given them the tools to success, coached them well, and given them development opportunities to enhance their engagement, there is only one thing left to do…create loyalty.
Loyalty is a word that is often shied away from in present day business settings because in years past you had companies that demanded it of their employees. However, loyalty is still important and can be very valuable in achieving success. It just has to be approached in a different way.
One of the most important ways to accomplish this is to build on what you have already done by ensuring each team member understands their importance to the team and the organization as a whole.
Year ago when I was managing a Kinko’s (a national quick print chain at the time) location I once had an employee who said “All we do is throw dirt (toner) on paper.” I thought this was a terrible attitude and one that I didn’t want spreading to the other team members. Sure, working in a retail setting can feel a bit mundane at times. However, what I tried to explain to my team in that setting was that while it might feel like you are just “throwing dirt on paper”, it is much more than that to the person you are helping. You might be helping to print an executive’s presentation for a big meeting the following day to help them secure a large client ensuring their company is able to stay in business. That person you are helping to copy photos for a collage of their grandfather, might be doing that to have available at their grandfather’s funeral, which will help that family through the grieving process.
No matter the business you are in, help your team understand their impact on the clients, their team, and their organization as a whole. Do this often, so that they really have buy-in and understand how they contribute to the success and lives of others.