Sharing your knowledge and skills is an important part of being a leader. However, in a time when teams are stretched thin, and resources and time are both in short supply, it can be challenging to feel prepared to develop your team.
In fact, you may often feel like you’re barely hanging on yourself, much less able to focus on the development of others.
However, developing your team members doesn’t have to be a drain. You don’t have to set aside hours each week for meetings and evaluations and trainings. Instead, there’s plenty you can do right now to start developing your team members, growing them into the leaders your organization needs to stay strong in the future.
What can you do right now to help others develop and grow their skills?
Give them a chance to shine.
If you have team members who aspire to lead, let them take on a challenging project and see where they can take it. Make sure you’re checking in with them regularly and providing support/guidance.
And, show enough trust that you’ll let them handle it in their own way. That’s a big part of being a leader – making decisions about how to handle things.
Will your team members always do things the same way you would? Of course not. However, if you’ve spent enough time with them developing an awareness of your company’s culture and values, you should be able to trust their instincts.
Checking in or requesting regular status updates can help you ensure you feel comfortable with their processes. And, often the best management comes from frequent short updates and being an available/accessible leader. If you’re facilitating that, you should be pleasantly unsurprised at your team members’ successes.
How to get started today
Become a master of delegation. Give your team member a project, even if it’s one you can do on your own.
Then, make them responsible for setting up a timeline, meeting schedule and checkpoints for your future discussions on the project. Instead of creating more work for yourself, give them the chance to feel true ownership and to show you what they’re capable of handling.
Be transparent about the way you handle leadership responsibilities.
Keeping things to yourself and pretending to be invincible doesn’t help anyone. It creates unrealistic hurdles for team members who need to communicate struggles with you.
And, it also creates a barrier between you and your team, one that can preclude you from talking honestly with them about the challenges you’re facing or about the areas where you need support.
Instead, let your team members see your vulnerability and see that they play a role in your success. By modeling leadership, and explaining explicitly the issues you face, you’ll set up your aspiring leaders for success.
Being a strong leader can help to grow and develop your team, but telling your team members why you make certain decisions and walking them through your strategic processes – that can help to hasten the development of their own strategic mindset.
And, have you ever noticed that when you need to explain something to someone, it makes you take a closer look at the topic or area you’re explaining? Leadership isn’t a mystical science or something you’re “just born with”; it’s a set of learned behaviors, skills and tools you use. When you try to explain to someone else WHY you made a choice or how you’d lead a conversation, it also forces you to become better acquainted with yourself, to get a better overall understanding of your personal decision making and motivations.
How to get started today
Consciously work to explain the processes behind your decision making, and to talk through ordinary processes with your team members. You don’t have to do anything formal or make it a big deal, just start incorporating more communication and more leadership-by-doing into your interactions.
Highlight successes but learn from failures.
People are so uncomfortable with the possibility of failure, they end up not even putting themselves forward. However, it’s actually more often true that people who never fail are actually either not trying hard enough or not taking risks and leaving opportunities on the table.
Failure doesn’t have to be the opposite of success. Instead, it should be seen as a step on the pathway to success. Developing your team members to work and plan with a growth mindset requires looking at failures as challenges, as opportunities to do something better – not as a missed shot.
To build a culture that celebrates both success and failure, your team will require frequent, candid feedback. You can’t wait until a project is at an end point to weigh in with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Instead, you need to keep yourself updated, ask questions and identify and handle issues straight-on.
However you also have to balance that urge to stay on top of things with the ability to let your team members make decisions. If you’re micromanaging them, you’re not actually allowing them develop their leadership skills. Instead, you’re stunting their growth by making it harder for them to make decisions. Instead of thinking strategically and making the best decision for the business, you’ll have them thinking about what might go wrong and what you might think, do or say.
How to get started today
Emphasize to your team members that you’re comfortable with failure, as long as they continue learning, growing, reiterating and improving. Keeping yourself positive can be a huge predictor of the way your team will handle failure, so stay cognizant of the attitude you’re expressing to them.
Conducting lessons learned sessions can be a valuable way to work through failure and glean wisdom from it. You may even want to consider working with an outside facilitator, so the sessions don’t devolve into commiseration and so you can ensure team members are giving one another useful feedback.
Give them other ways to feel supported.
You shouldn’t be the one solitary support system for your team. While you’ve worked to develop your resilience, you’re still one person and you can’t be the sole source of all knowledge and guidance for your team.
Instead, look for other ways to provide them with the resources they need. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you send them off to a conference (as they’re scarce right now anyway). Instead, it might mean giving them leadership development resources, and giving them time to review materials on the clock.
It might mean bringing in a coach to help them with specific areas of development. Or, it could mean hosting a workshop that team members can attend virtually and focusing its materials on specific areas where your entire team could benefit from training and improvement.
How to get started today: Make a roadmap for the leaders and emerging leaders on your team. Which ones are the most ready to advance? Which ones show the most potential, but still need some guidance?
You likely have limited resources available to you with the strain and stress of the pandemic. You can make wise choices to allocate the right level of support to the right people at the right time to make sure you’re using your resources wisely. That may mean enrolling some more senior team members in a leadership institute so they can develop together, while providing others earlier on in their careers with a different set of resources to help them grow.
Final Thoughts: Start Developing Your Team Members Today To Start Improving Your Career Prospects
One more reason to start coaching, mentoring and developing your team members? Investing time in them can actually benefit you. How?
- You’ll be growing the people who will keep moving your organization forward.
- You’ll strengthen your team, keeping them engaged and focused.
- You’ll live up to your cultural promises
- You’ll position yourself for additional future leadership roles.
When people see that the team members who developed under you are becoming all-stars and leaders in their own right, they’ll be able to clearly trace them back to your leadership and the work you did to develop them.
Your network of influence will grow as people start to say, “That Jessica Carter. Everything she touches turns to gold.” When they’re looking for someone to take on that next project or step into that vacant leadership role, who will be the first person that comes to mind? The one who’s already proven their ability to lead, get things done and develop their team members.
The next question for you to consider is – Who are you leading, or where do you see an opportunity to start?