Leading a team within an organization can feel like being a coach sometimes. The terms are different, but you’re still watching your team members grow and develop, waiting eagerly as they achieve milestones and find new ways to succeed.
Like a coach, your responsibility is to support your employees as they unlock their potential. To help them be the best they can be, you focus on ways to support without controlling, guide them without taking over, and grow both their confidence and their leadership potential.
How do you invite your employees to be their best selves?
Share information and resources.
When you’re in a leadership role, there may be some information you need to keep to yourself. When you’re asking your employees to take on a responsibility, though, you’ll get their best work when you’re transparent with them.
Teams with high clarity understand their roles and how they connect to the overall goals of the organization. They trust the leaders in their organization to assign responsibilities clearly and to ensure the team is working with as much information as possible to reach their desired outcomes.
If you have information you can’t share, focus on what you can share to keep your team members clued-in on progress or direction. Explain decision-making processes, share organizational goals, and break down informational siloes so team members feel connected and stay engaged.
Ensure they feel fully welcomed.
As a leader, your team will navigate communication among different people from different backgrounds with different expectations.
Trust is critical. If employees believe they need to hide or downplay something important to their life or identity, they won’t be able to fully invest themselves in your team or organization.
As a leader, your responsibility isn’t to focus on differences between employees. It’s to show a high level of emotional intelligence as you interact with employees from all backgrounds.
It’s to have the self-awareness required to confront any and to lead conversations or invest in to break down generalizations and ensure each team member is recognized, appreciated, and celebrated for the value they bring to the team.
Reward employees’ efforts.
The best rewards for employees – the ones that engage them and secure their loyalty and commitment – are thoughtful and purposeful.
Meaningful rewards take employees’ individual needs into consideration. An evening happy hour or fun activity might be rewarding for some employees
Some of the most rewarding experiences for employees may not require a monetary reward at all. Rewards may come in the form of specific and detailed feedback or praise, opportunities for exposure/recognition, or additional time for connection.
When you are willing to make that investment, the returns are great.
When employees believe you understand what they need to be successful and fulfilled, they’re likely to be more motivated and bring their best selves (and best work) to the table.
Manage and even embrace failure.
Your employees cannot achieve their best if they’re afraid of incurring your wrath or disapproval with any misstep.
You may think you’re giving them the support they need as an engaged and proactive manager, but have you ever asked them? Are you giving them the room to expand their capacity and manage their own work?
If you’re micromanaging, you’re doing their job for them and stifling their opportunities to create success on their own.
What would happen if you gave your employees the chance to try without fear? Leadership sometimes involves allowing your team members to try new things, fail, and move forward.
When you embrace the concept of failure as a pathway to success, you allow your employees to take appropriate risks without losing your approval.
When managers develop close relationships with their team members, giving feedback can be challenging. More than two-thirds of managers said they’re often uncomfortable communicating feedback to their employees, particularly if they believe the employee will take the feedback negatively.
Withholding feedback from employees because you fear a hard conversation is even worse for them in the long run. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to “Name It” – to express what is happening factually and without opinion, interpretation, or explanation.
When presenting feedback to someone, avoid judgment-based language and simply state your observation. Have a productive starting point for problem-solving and invite their thoughts on the situation. Avoid opinion-based statements that may invite emotionally-charged defense responses from your employee.
Invest in their development.
Studies of school children show that they are less likely to feel motivated when they believe their teachers/leaders don’t care about them. The same goes for employees in the workplace.
Your team members will perform their best for a leader who inspires them and who believes in their potential. That means giving your time to support them in ways that include:
- Genuinely listening to their concerns
- Analyzing opportunities that suit them and excite their interest
- Providing honest and well-thought-out feedback, even when it’s not comfortable to do so
In addition to time, you invite your employees to be their best selves when you invest in their training. Whether an employee is potential management material or focused on remaining an individual contributor, leadership development training can build their capacity for high performance and equip them with key skills that will benefit them and your organization regardless of their roles.
Employees will appreciate this commitment because it makes them more prepared to do a good job within the organization. As millennials move into roles of authority, for example, 63 percent say they feel ill-equipped regarding leadership development. Your team members want to do a great job and it’s in your power to ensure they have the resources and training to excel.
Conclusion: Ask the Right Questions
What would happen if you didn’t spoon-feed your team members the right answers? If you didn’t micromanage them into success?
When you do these things, are you helping them develop as they should? If a butterfly is struggling to emerge from its chrysalis, a human’s helping hand will actually prevent its development.
As tempting as it may be to help our employees out of their self-development chrysalis, it’s better to give them the tools, resources, and support to do it themselves. Instead of giving the right answers, guide them to ask the right questions, to delve deeply into their work and their opportunities, and to be unflinchingly self-aware so they can discover changes that need to be made.