In this series, I want us to take a look at the obstacles to raising up leaders, and how we can overcome them. We’ll also include some practical ways you can coach and inspire future leaders.
Good leaders lead.
Great leaders raise up other leaders.
A large part of a leader’s job is developing the leadership and influence potential of the people on their team.
Though we explored this in more detail in the first article, here are three obstacles that stall our ability to grow other leaders.
1.We think it takes too much time and energy.
2. Fear of failure or turf protection.
3. We aren’t taking the long-look.
We also looked at several ways to begin to develop leaders. Let’s continue to look at seven additional ways to begin to raise up new leaders.
Give Them Stretch Assignments
People are not motivated by mundane tasks, especially people with high potential. Give them something that stretches their current abilities.
I have a friend who teaches guitar lessons. He challenges his students to go beyond their abilities. I heard him tell a student to attempt a certain song that was technically very difficult. Upon the student’s exit, I stated, “That song is very difficult. There is no way he can play that.” The teacher replied, “He doesn’t know he can’t play that, and because of that fact, he’ll actually be able to make much more progress on it.”
Find diverse assignments that will push the leaders you are developing beyond their comfort zone and may even cause them some frustration. Watching them deal with frustration and coaching them through it is very beneficial. DO encourage them through this process, and don’t abdicate or abandon them.
Be Ready To Adapt
Young leaders are going to be wearing a different set of lenses through which they see things. If you are looking to develop a carbon copy of yourself, you’ll fail in leadership development. There should be times you feel the stress of a leader pushing you beyond your current comfort zone. If you don’t feel challenged, you aren’t giving them enough room to take the initiative. Remember, if they carry the WHY of the organization, the HOW can be flexible. Don’t insist they do the HOW your way.
Don’t Lower Expectations
Reduce the scope and quantity of assignments you give them to match their abilities. Do NOT reduce the expectation of quality. This leads to dangerous habits and sloppy work.
I have a friend who was teaching his son to mow the lawn. Sections of the lawn were actually a tough mow due to hills and several landscape features on angles. My friend had his son first learn to mow the flat sections of the yard. If his son missed a spot, he required him to go back and mow the missed areas. He didn’t tolerate poor work. As his son gained experience, he allowed him to mow the inclined sections, and his son had a clear understanding of the quality of work required. He had learned the expectation of quality, and the only thing that changed was the scope.
This is a much better approach than giving too broad a scope while lowering expectations of quality. If this is done, when even larger responsibilities are granted, they will be done with such poor quality as to not be of value to the company.
Demand Finishing Well
The success or failure of an endeavor is often in the last 10% of attention being paid to execution and completion. By establishing clear milestones with a potential leader, which include periodic check-ins to confirm progress, you’ll be building in critique moments. You’ll also better ensure the assignment gets finished and reduce the chance that you’ll be surprised by incomplete work. If a potential leader makes mistakes and has to burn the midnight oil to finish the project on time, it is a lesson learned. You can come alongside them, but don’t bail them out.
Tap Into Your Veteran Knowledge Pool
When strong leaders retire, don’t let all their knowledge and experience walk out the door. Create a mentorship structure where retired team members can partner with young leaders to pass on wisdom and knowledge. Retirement can be a tough change, and this transitional role will be as valuable to them as it is to the young leader. In this day and age, young leaders long for professional mentors who can coach them. Because these mentors are now technically outside the company, they don’t have to worry about impressing them or discussing failures with them.
Set Up an Elite Development Program
Consider a more formal leadership development program where values, people skills, and technical skills are taught and tested in real world situations. While your organization should try to improve the leadership skills of all employees, there are high-capacity leaders that hold tremendous potential. Invite them into a more elite program, where the participants graduate or get certified as trained leaders.
The Navy Seals understand this concept of training. Participants enter the program, and if they cannot handle the pressure, they are “washed out.” In fact, the Seals BUD/S Training, which is the toughest military training in the world, has a 75-80% attrition rate. Washouts can then re-apply for the program or decide that an elite level of leadership within the team is not their calling.
Develop, Don’t Train
Forbes contributor Mike Myatt writes:
Scrap leadership training in favor of development. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo.
Remember when a training session was announced that you were required to attend? You probably dreaded it, knowing it would be a one-way monologue or indoctrination session. Development is collaborative, contextual, fluid to the moment, and actionable. Training happens in the classroom; development happens in the field.
Which of these methods inspires you to raise up other leaders? Let us know!