As I sat, waiting for my friend to finish her 10-minute brain dump, I made notes of all her key issues working for her current employer: not paid enough, long hours, and no upwards mobility.
Nothing she said I hadn’t heard before from others who came to me for advice about their professional career choices. After she got it all out on the table, I asked her what she liked about where she worked.
“My boss is amazing – a true leader. She encourages me, gives me learning opportunities, and has realistic but lofty expectations of my work.”
Her answer came as no surprise to me because I knew her boss. And I knew the business wasn’t currently in position to give raises, work shorter hours, or create layers of management. Even through the business’s tough times, her boss lived out John Quincy Adams definition of leadership:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, become more, you are leader.”
Adams definition provides a framework for living out great leadership and a simple question you can look in the mirror and should be able to answer: “Am I helping my people grow?”
When times are tough in business, it’s great leadership that holds all the pieces together. Yes, my friend was concerned because she wasn’t pleased with some aspects of her job, but she ended up staying at the company because of her leader. Managers are a dime a dozen, but if you’re able to work with a leader who helps you grow, that’s something special.
Here are 5 ways you can help people grow both professionally and personally:
Provide Freedom. Give employees enough rope to make mistakes, stretch the limits of their skills, and capture the feeling of empowerment. There is no substitute or replacement from learning from personal experience or failure.
Coach and Mentor. Every successful person I have ever met, regardless of profession, has a coach or mentor. Great coaching starts by understanding where someone is today, where they want to go, and creating a path to help them get there. Most managers or leaders are in their current position because they were successful in a prior position. The toughest part of coaching professionals is resisting the temptations to take control of situations and use prior experience to become player and not coach.
Educate. Do all you can to educate and transfer knowledge to your people. There’s an endless stream of great content on the web, countless online courses, and professional conferences to attend each year. Invest in people and, more often than not, they will return the loyalty to you.
Create Structure. In order for anybody to grow or improve some structure or framework must be in place. Set meeting times, agendas, and consistent expectations of employees to create an environment that promotes growth. Marshall Goldsmith, a change management expert, says, “The environment is a huge barrier to transformation and very difficult to see by yourself.”
Be Honest. This is the most simple, yet most neglected way to help your people. It’s easy for someone who is in a position of power to omit details or sugar coat expectations, skill development, or work performance to protect themselves or try to make someone feel good. Providing honest and candid feedback to people, in a respectful way, is the easiest way to see dramatic growth in a short amount of time.
By putting these 5 concepts into practice, you will be able the answer the question, “Am I helping grow my people?” with an emphatic, “YES”. You have more employees remain loyal, but you will find fulfillment by leading for others.