In Leadership Chat this week we focused on a variety of challenges that leaders face when it comes to promoting individuals on their teams.
I asked the following question,

Realistic or not to think leaders will work to help entire team be highly successful in each individual role & be promotable? #LeadershipChat

and was surprised the responses were not more positive. What was interesting to me was the way other leaders on the chat responded to the word, “help;” they thought I’d implied they were supposed to help their team members do their jobs. My response,

Was thinking more re giving them tools 2 succeed, role that’s right fit, giving visibility… #leadershipchat

You see, I believe leaders have a vital responsibility to position their team members for success. Not only will individual success lead to fulfillment and higher levels of loyalty and commitment, but team member success leads to team success which leads to company success. It’s a win-win for everyone.

A Back to School Example

As those big yellow school buses are visible again in our bucolic villages, it occurred to me that “back to school time” presents an analogy here. Parents have a vital responsibility to ensure that their children are positioned for success in school. They fulfill this responsibility in four ways:

1. Tools for success: Making sure they have backpacks, lunch boxes, calculators and all the notebooks and binders the teachers have deemed necessary to earn top grades.

2. Food: Food for the body and food for the soul in the form of encouragement and ensuring that the child is in the class that is the best fit for their learning style and academic challenge. Some will be ready for more than others; putting them in classes that are the best fit ensures challenge while also ensuring a chance to succeed.

3. Balance: Ensuring that children have time to play and exercise and daydream and sleep, while still fulfilling their responsibilities to study hard and complete their homework in a respectful manner.

4. Help: While parents should never do the work for their children, helping children understand that it’s OK to ask for help is a critical life lesson. Guidance and direction are part of the natural role of the parent.

Now, it’s very important for me to clarify that I am in no way implying that the leader-team member relationship should emulate a parent-child relationship. I’m simply using this analogy because so many people understand how these areas of support apply when it comes to helping children succeed, but don’t think about them when it comes to helping their teams succeed. Let’s apply the analogy…

4 Ways Leaders Can Position Their Teams for Success:

1. Provide team members with the tools needed to succeed.

  • If you approve an initiative make sure it’s properly funded.
  • As appropriate, help your team members get the right talent on their teams to support their initiatives.
  • Learn how to give constructive feedback, and give it regularly. Praise and recognize just as consistently.
  • Ongoing training and development is important; we all need to be continuously learning and refining.
  • Conference attendance, as appropriate, helps team members stay at the leading edge in their industry or specialty.

2. Feed their hearts as well as their minds

  • Hire people who are an ideal fit for the role and passionate about filling it.
  • Move team members around if necessary to create a great fit between individual and role.
  • Opportunities for challenge lead to personal growth, which promotes blossoming in the brain as well as the soul.
  • Encouragement is easy to give away and fosters positivity on your team.
  • Give employees credit for their work and appropriate visibility in the organization where their accomplishments may be recognized. Let them present at top management meetings in your place, for example, if part of the company culture.

3. Support work-life balance

  • Develop processes – such as an annual budget process – that enable the work to get done during reasonable business hours. Don’t be the leader that waits until the last minute and expects their employees to work late every night for two weeks as a result.
  • If you enable team members to serve on division-wide or company-wide teams, support this decision from a time-management and advisement perspective, and make sure your peers are similarly supporting their team members who serve on teams you lead.
  • Set an example. Take vacations and go home at night at a reasonable hour, encouraging your employees to do the same. You’ll discover this is critical if you research how stress relief leads to higher productivity, loyalty and innovation!

4. Empower your employees to ask for help and give help in the form of guidance

  • CEOs I work with who are successful consistently say they are not afraid to ask for help and to admit what they don’t know.
  • Help employees understand that you are there for guidance and direction, and that asking for help does not make them weak. Rather, it shows they’re smart enough to recognize where they need to tap into others’ experiences, and demonstrates a commitment to seeing the entire team succeed.
  • As a leader, resist the temptation to “do it for them!” It may be easier in the short-term, but will not foster the culture of initiative, innovation and personal drive that you genuinely want for the long term.
  • We all face great uncertainty today. Learn how to lead through uncertainty to help your teams move beyond it.

What have I left out? What are some other ways leaders can position their teams for success? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments!