Many recent studies and surveys, as well as articles by leading publications such as Harvard Business Review, emphasize the necessity of frequent, practical feedback. Virtually every employee under the age of 35, for instance, believes that unless their direct leaders actively help them make career advancement, they need to start looking for a position at a different company.
Unfortunately, too few leaders engage with team members in this meaningful and mentoring way. The busier you get as an executive, the more disconnected you can become from the developmental needs of your employees. That’s understandable. But those individual learning gaps must be addressed in order for your organization to stay competitive.
Cultivate the Developmental Mindset
Physicians need to heal themselves before they try to treat their patients, so leaders who want to train teams have to first develop themselves. You may have an MBA, but that’s just the beginning of a lifelong process of leadership learning.
Knowing how to lead, utilizing best practices, and developing raw talent in innovative ways requires a career-spanning commitment to your own pursuit of knowledge, skills, and excellence.
Every day you should take an inventory of what you learned, and if you don’t have a trusted mentor and executive development partner to give you concrete feedback and insights, you’re going to soon wind up isolated, vulnerable, and irrelevant. If you need a coach or mentor, find one before it is too late.
Stake Your Success on Theirs
To lead you need to realize in your own mind and express to others around you that you have a personal stake in the success of each person who contributes to your team success.
As a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company, I thrived because I paid extra special attention to developing everyone I led. I freely shared all my career secrets with them, and constantly gave them constructive feedback.
As they advanced, so did our corporate performance. That continually elevated my credibility and status, and I was offered rapid multiple promotions.
Invest in Your Team Players
The President of McGraw-Hill Higher Education takes time out of every busy day to talk to people within his organization and monitor their career progress and team performance.
When Hugh McColl was CEO of Bank of America, he would frequently show up unexpectedly at someone’s desk or branch office to see how they were doing and offer personal feedback and encouragement.
That takes time and effort. But during McColl’s tenure he expanded his organization from a mid-sized regional player into one of the world’s biggest banking institutions. That hands-on interpersonal style also solidified his legendary leadership legacy.
Share a Legacy-Oriented Vision
As you evaluate their strengths and strengthen areas where they need more support, let a broader perspective be your guide.
Each member of your team should be able to instantly identify how their current responsibilities are tied to a long-range vision of greater career success.
Otherwise you cannot keep them motivated and sustain upbeat morale and positive, high-productivity momentum. One of the easiest things to do as a leader – and one of the most effective – is to convey to each person why their contributions are uniquely essential.
They should also understand how their daily contributions – and their personal goals and values – align with the organization’s larger value proposition, mission, and culture. Articulate your leadership vision in a way that shows them how it includes and depends upon their own career success.