After the third time Hank was passed over for a promotion in favor of hiring an outside candidate, he left to start his own software company. Hank vowed that his own company would not repeat the mistakes of his previous employer, specifically when it came to professional development. He wanted to help his employees grow. Today, we’ll examine the strategies Hank used.
1. Provide opportunities for professional development.
If your employees never have the chance to develop their leadership skills, those skills won’t be developed. Hank made sure that leadership roles in smaller projects are rotated. He also encouraged employees to work on their leadership skills by taking part in company-sponsored leadership development courses, both instructor-led and eLearning
2. Create opportunities for improving soft skills.
Hope, head of software engineering, attended a monthly networking event. Each time, she invited one of her direct reports so that they could learn about connecting professionally. Scott, head of Research and Development, insisted that his team members delegate project duties themselves. Giving employees the opportunity to work on their soft skills not only helps them develop professionally, it increases their self-confidence. These concepts provide a stretch-goal while ensuring a safety net.
3. Focus on your long-term plans.
You won’t turn a frontline associate into a manager overnight. Be patient. Hank believed that graphic designer Luis would be a great manager one day, but not for another few years. In the meantime, Hank made sure that Luis took leadership roles for projects within his department.
4. Aim for diversity.
Your company’s leadership should reflect your company’s workforce. A common, and generally unconscious, mistake is to focus on employees who remind you of yourself. By actively seeking out minority candidates (according to gender, race, age, etc.) for leadership development, you ensure that your leaders will have different points of view. By developing leaders from diverse backgrounds, your management team will be better equipped to handle the rigors of the modern marketplace.
5. Emphasize progress over mistakes.
You can emphasize the positive aspects of someone’s performance and still hold that person accountable for errors. While some people are naturally more at ease with leadership roles, others need more guidance and time to adjust. Scott allowed Ava, a new hire, to draft specifications for a major project. Unfortunately, Ava made a small calculation error that was not caught until the last minute. When explaining the situation to Hank, Scott took full responsibility for the mistake. Hank gave Scott a warning for his inattention to detail but praised him for giving Ava an opportunity to gain valuable experience. Hank acknowledged the mistake while praising the intention.
6. Be transparent.
It is frustrating to groom someone for a leadership position, only to realize that the individual is not (or will never be) ready for that role when the time comes. If this happens, be honest and clear with your employees. Hank knew this frustration on both sides: it was why he left his previous employer. Hank had believed that Sonny would be a great Vice President of Sales after the current VP retired. However, once Hank determined that Sonny just did not have the temperament to be a good manager, he was frank about the situation. He explained to Sonny that the firm would have to seek an outside candidate who would be a better fit for the demands of the role. While Sonny was understandably disappointed, he appreciated Hank’s forthright manner.
7. Keep looking for future leaders.
Few employees stay in the same role for their entire careers. Promotions and retirements create empty roles that will need to be filled. Hank understood the importance of employee development. He constantly reassessed his employees for leadership potential.
Leaders are made, not born. The biggest takeaway from these strategies is to give your employees opportunities for leadership development. If your people have the tools they need to hone their leadership skills, they will use them. You will be surprised at what your team can do!