Your business’ greatest resource is its people. But are your employees mere foot soldiers, blindly obeying orders and delivering just the bare minimum so they won’t get fired, or are they leaders? Do they aspire to be the best they can be, meet challenges with creativity and resilience, and constantly work to improve themselves, mentor their co-workers, and satisfy the clients?
Here are some tips to raising leaders in your organization. Because, after all, the best bosses don’t just create profit, they create leaders.
Everyone has good ideas, and since your employees are on the frontlines—meeting customers and clients, using systems and resources—they can recognize opportunities and threats. However a bad corporate culture can kill creativity and discourage employees from sharing what they think. (Read our article on company policies that kill opportunities.) Create a way for them to raise their suggestions: regular brainstorming sessions, an idea or suggestion box, etc. Hear these out without judgment, thank them for their contribution, and most importantly, act on their complaints and concerns. Make them feel they have a real voice in the organization.
Get them involved in problem solving
Constant criticism and bad news (‘You didn’t reach quota!’ or ‘Your competition has a larger market share!’) can lower morale. Instead of zeroing in on problems, involve them in problem solving. During meetings, summarize the challenge at hand (‘Our market share has dropped by 10%’) and then ask them for ways they can help solve the problem within their respective departments or job functions. That way, you don’t create a culture of blame, but a culture of innovation and resourcefulness.
Spend one-on-one time with your employees
It may be difficult to have lunch with every member of your staff, but do try to meet them in small groups. Get to know their names, observe their personality and group dynamics (is there someone who tends to dominate the conversation? Or someone who has great ideas but seems shy an withdrawn?). Get to know their strength and weaknesses, and resist a cookie cutter approach to success. For example, one manager may be good at presentations but lousy with logistics; another may not be that charismatic, but can troubleshoot really well. This will give you an idea of what roles to assign to them. Also hone your coaching and mentoring skills, so you can magnify their strengths and develop their other talents.
Reward fantastic ideas
Bonuses are always appreciated, but don’t neglect little things: sending congratulatory emails for a job well done, or little benefits that don’t necessarily affect your budget (like giving extra vacation leaves).
Give them the opportunity to make decisions
Bureaucratic organizations with many layers of approval not only act more slowly, but also cultivate a culture of drones. They will get used to waiting for some upper manager to make (or revert) a decision. Train your people and then trust them.
Photo from michaelhamburger.com