“What is the most enjoyable thing you do as a leader?”
Is it finishing a report, running a meeting, diving in a solving a complicated project problem, talking with customers or………..
This is a very important question. The answer to this gives you the frame for what you will keep returning too.
The second question, which is the most important question is, “What do you get out of it?” This reveals the emotional payoff you get from those activities. It will reveal things about your motivations, your personality and the culture you work in.
The third question is, “What are you are paid to do?”
Many leaders get themselves into trouble because they are not doing what they are getting paid to do. Maybe they are hanging onto tasks from their old role, sometimes their mindset hasn’t moved on and they are still thinking like they were previously, sometimes they are so good at a task everyone around them keeps coming to ask them for help, which doesn’t allow them to focus on what they are being paid to do.
- Many leaders love to be in front of the customer, they build up loyalty and relationship with the customer. They get kudos from their leaders for the good job they are doing plus the customer loves that they can rely on them because of their intimate product knowledge. Their ego is being stroked. There is a problem when this is their old job. The leader hasn’t been ‘able’ to transition the customer to someone else. There are all sorts of reasons but if they were honest there is an emotional answer to the question. The leader is getting paid to manage a team dealing with a range of customers and to find new customers and markets. However emotionally they love the ego strokes they get from dealing face to face with customers.
- A manager is really technically strong; they have been promoted because of their technical abilities and knowledge. They love to get into the details and fix complicated problems. The people around them keep coming to the manager with technical issues to solve because these skills. The problem: the leader isn’t being paid to fix technical problems but to think strategically and long-term, not to mention manage a diverse team.
If you asked me what the most enjoyable things I do as a leader it is developing the abilities of those around me.
I am going to suggest that one of the most important tasks, a leader of a team has, is the development of the people around them. This takes inner security and intentionality
- Inner security, because we have to let go of tasks and activities that we enjoy (and are pretty good at). One of my mentors used to say to me when I faced a dilemma of too much to do, not enough time. “In order to go up, you have to give up”. For a leader to go to the next level of effectiveness there are activities they enjoy and are good at which they need to hand over to overs.
- Intentionality, because people don’t automatically develop, and there are so many competing demands, unless the important is prioritized the urgent will always push it to the back of the queue. Intentionality of course means choosing what you want to delegate to others.
In order to develop those around you intentionally I want to suggest to you three common themes of developing people, which form a strategy you can implement.
- SOMEONE SPOTTED OUR POTENTIAL
Everyone who has developed in their skills and career had someone (or many someone’s) who at some point saw something in you that they thought was promising. They thought you could do a role and maybe thought you could become a leader.
For me there were 2 crucial people who spotted something in me. One was my second boss, and the other was an informal mentor. Notice I said my second boss. My first boss didn’t think much of my potential.
But there were two men who affirmed my potential and set about helping me to believe in myself. This meant encouraging me to step up and back myself. This step may sound easy but for many of us it isn’t. In fact it took me years to truly believe I was a leader (which is quite ironic now I am work with leaders to strengthen leadership skills and mindsets throughout Australia). That is why I understand why many people stay in the shadows, playing it safe and not pushing out into the deep to see what they are capable of. I definitely needed some people who spotted my potential and gave me a nudge into the deep.
- SOMEONE INVESTED IN US
Sometimes it is the person that spotted our potential, sometimes it was someone else who spoke to us and encouraged us to aspire for more. Spotting potential and encouraging someone isn’t enough. For potential to be realised it needs to be developed and shaped. Some develop themselves; most grow most through the mentoring and training of others.
Investing in someone always takes time and energy on the part of the person investing in us. The gift those people have given us is something we should never take for granted.
There have been people all the long my leadership journey who have spent countless hours mentoring, coaching and training me in how to think, skills and wisdom when I was stuck. Along the way my character and resilience grew as others modeled what it was to be a good leader in the face of complexity and pressure.
Investing in someone in your team is almost never convenient. There are always many other pressing things to do but investing in others is one of the most important activities that a leader can do. As I said before this takes intentionality:
- To think about where the person is at and what is the next step for them.
- A mindset that is focused on other people’s success and growth, not just on yourself.
- A practice of including people in what you are doing to see you in action.
3. SOMEONE TRUSTED US WITH RESPONSIBILITY
Identification and development are great, ultimately someone needs to take a risk and hand us a baton and say, “I want you to be responsible for……. I won’t step in unless you ask for it”.
The approach the leader takes to training will largely determine his or her people’s success or failure. If the leader takes a dry, academic approach, the potential leaders will remember little of what’s taught. If the leader simply throws people into the job without direction and support, they may feel like they are drowning.
Below is the well-documented 5 Step, successful model of training people for success.
Step 1: I Model
You do the task or tasks you want the person to learn whilst they are watching you do it. Try and allow them see you going through the whole process. Modelling is the most natural and quickest way for us to learn anything.
Step 2: I Mentor
The next step is to continue to perform the task, but this time the person I’m training comes alongside me and assists in parts of the process. I also take time to explain not only the how but also the why of each step.
Step3: I Monitor
Now we swap places and the ‘trainee’ is now performing the task and I assist and correct. It’s especially important during this phase to be positive and encouraging to the trainee. It keeps them trying and it makes them want to improve rather than give up. Work with the trainee until they develop consistency. Once they have mastered the process, ask they to explain it to you. It will help them to understand and remember.
Step 4: I Motivate
At this point the leader takes him or herself out of the task and lets the trainee take over completely. The leaders task is to make sure they know how to do it without your help and to keep encouraging them so they will continue to improve. It is important that the leader stays close enough with the trainee until they are confident. This will often take the form of encouragement.
Step 5: I Multiply
Once someone is trained it is the new leaders or workers job to repeat the process and teach someone else the task. The best way to master something is to teach someone else.
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE HARDEST STEP FOR YOU IN DEVELOPING OTHERS?