It’s not enough just to recruit good team members. A leader must understand how those people best fit on the team and put them there. To do that, he must have a clear picture of each person’s strengths and weakness and understand how they fit the needs of the team.
Some leaders take a counseling approach to developing people. By that I mean that they focus on what the person is doing poorly or wrong, and they focus their attention on helping them make corrections in those areas. If you want to develop people, though, you must help them discover and build upon their strengths. That’s where people have the most potential to grow. Helping to develop their strengths is the only way to help leaders become world-class.
Modeling—Showing Others How to Lead
Few things are worse than the teacher who is unteachable. As a leader, you will reproduce what you are. For example, if you remain teachable, your people will remain teachable. If your mind is closed, the minds of the people you mentor will probably be closed. You set the tone for those who follow you.
One of the secrets of developing leaders is to have the people you are mentoring beside you as often as possible so that they can learn how you think and act in a variety of situations. Here are the things I believe you must display, or model, with integrity in order to develop people :
Authenticity—This is the foundation for developing people.
Servanthood—This is the soul for developing people.
Growth—This is the measurement for developing people.
Excellence—This is the standard for developing people.
Passion—This is the fuel for developing people.
Success—This is the purpose for developing people.
Your goal at first is for them to observe as you model leadership. But as quickly as you can, move on to the next phase of development.
Equipping—Helping Others Do Their Jobs Well
It’s not enough to simply tell people what they need to do. That’s not developing their potential. Instead, a leader must help them to do their jobs and do them well. The best method I’ve ever found is a five-step equipping process. Here’s how it works:
Step 1—I do it (competence).
Step 2—I do it and you are with me (demonstration).
Step 3—You do it and I am with you (coaching).
Step 4—You do it (empowerment).
Step 5—You do it and someone is with you (reproduction).
If you adopt this method, not only will you equip leaders, you will begin teaching them how to equip others, which sets them up to become great leaders themselves.
Developing—Teaching Them to Do Life Well
If the only thing you’re helping a new leader learn is how to get ahead in the workplace, you’re not truly developing that person to succeed, because there’s a lot more to life than work and career. The Center for Creative Leadership has observed that three key elements drive leadership development in others.
1. Assessment. As a great leader, you should be continually on the lookout for holes in the life skills of someone you are leading and developing. Ask yourself:
Where does this person seem to be failing?
Where are this person’s blind spots?
What does my intuition tell me is “off” in this person’s thinking?
Why isn’t this person reaching his or her potential?
Who might be leading this person in a wrong direction?
When does this person do well?
When does this person stumble?
What telltale clues can I find that give me insight into where this person needs help?
Where is this person’s sweet spot?
A good leader is always on the lookout for a person’s weaknesses and wrong thinking—not to exploit that person, but to strengthen and help him or her succeed.
2. Challenge. If you’ve done your work to build a strong relationship with the people on your team, and you’ve proven yourself by demonstrating success and modeling productivity, there is a very good chance that people on your team will buy into your leadership and accept a challenge from you to improve. To present that challenge, ask the people you lead to do the following:
Read books related to their areas of strength.
Attend conferences that will inspire them.
Take on new and challenging tasks in their sweet spot.
Practice difficult disciplines that slowly build character.
Meet with you on a regular basis for mentoring.
The idea is to challenge them in the areas of their lives where you see that they need improvement. Just be sure to gain their permission to do it before starting the process.
3. Support. Nobody gets ahead in life without the help and support of other people. One of the great privileges of leading on the People Development level is helping new leaders navigate through life’s difficulties.
It’s difficult for people to make the most of their leadership potential when the rest of their lives is a wreck. Good life skills help a person to create a strong foundation upon which to build a family, career, and spiritual life. I admit that I get the greatest joy from seeing people reach their leadership potential, but it is also very satisfying to know that I’ve helped someone to enjoy life and live it well.
Empowering—Enabling People to Succeed
Empowerment means helping people to see what they can do without your help, and releasing them to do it. As you release tasks to the leaders you’re developing, you need to trust them, believe in them, and hold them accountable. Trust creates a bond between you and them. When I trust the people I empower, I put a little piece of myself into their hands. When they respond in kind, the shared vulnerability creates a bond that deepens the relationship.
When you believe in people, you motivate them. And the belief must be genuine. Pretending you believe provides no passion for empowerment. Nor can you borrow the belief from someone else, because it will have no power. You must draw upon the experiences you have with people and the growth that they have already exhibited. Besides helping them, it will also help you. If you don’t believe in them, you won’t be able to let go and release them to achieve.
When you hold people accountable, you increase their chances for positive results. Why? Because everyone finds focus in goals. They work better toward deadlines. And they usually rise to the level of a leader’s expectations. Without accountability, people drift. With it, they achieve results.
Measuring—Evaluating Those Whom You Develop to Maximize Their Efforts
Many people look at winning sports teams and attribute the team’s success to how knowledgeable the coach is. But games aren’t won according to what the coach knows. Games are won according to what the coach’s players have learned. How can you measure that as a leader? By judging how independently your team members are able to function.
The Center for Organizational Leadership in Cincinnati, Ohio, suggests that leaders should employ different degrees of empowerment, based on how independently a team member can work. Here are the six they recognize, from least independent to most independent:
Look into it. Report. I’ll decide what to do.
Look into it. Report alternatives with pros and cons and your recommendation.
Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do, but don’t do it unless I say yes.
Look into it. Let me know what you intend to do and do it unless I say no.
Take action. Let me know what you did.
Take action. No further contact required.
As you work in People Development with team members, you can measure where they are based on how they typically function according to those six benchmarks. Obviously, your goal is to help them become leaders who can take action without needing your input. When the leaders you develop reach that benchmark, then they—and you—are ready to lead them at the highest level of leadership.