There is tremendous opportunity and satisfaction as a leader in developing others. By effectively developing the people around us, we elicit excellence in a number of impactful and far-reaching ways. Developing others is an important function of effective leadership.
The first benefit, obviously, is to the person being developed. When we help someone expand their skill set and knowledge base, we make them more valuable and more versatile, which in turn, instills a sense of pride. Instilling pride in work and workmanship is a cornerstone of the foundation for eliciting excellence. In addition, we demonstrate our belief in them, their abilities, and their potential. This in turn nurtures loyalty and responsiveness towards you.
The next way that developing people elicits excellence is the impact on our team. When individual members of a team grow their abilities and stretch themselves, they in turn inspire others to do the same. Even though you may not have personally worked with each member of your team (although hopefully you will at some point), the people you developed act as examples of what is possible, which if you have the right people on your team, will act to motivate others to take the initiative to improve themselves for the betterment of their future and the benefit of the organization.
The third manner in which developing others brings forth excellence lies within us. By mastering the art of developing people, we become more skilled in our communication abilities, more effective in our leadership, and more leveraged in our efforts. All of these benefits act to make us more productive, more creative and more confident, thereby eliciting excellence.
Given the impact and far-reaching implications of developing others, it is critical to master this important function. At the heart of this effort lies the leadership style of “coaching”. Adopting a “coach-like” attitude and manner is the fastest and most effective means of developing others.
What does a coaching style of leadership look like? Being “coach-like” embodies a number of competencies and strategies, all of which interlock and work in conjunction with one another. The first concept to acknowledge is the power of asking rather than telling. Many of us, in an effort to help someone “get it right” (and in the name of expediency), tell others what to do and how to do it. And while this does get the work done, it does little to develop the other person, their skill set, and their confidence.
The alternative, “coach-like” approach, is to ask. Instead of starting off by telling them what to do, ask them what they would do and how they would do it. This strategy serves a number of very important functions. Firstly, it demonstrates that you have an interest in what they have to say. When you listen to what someone is telling you, it acts as a sign of respect. It demonstrates that you value what they have to say. The next benefit of asking is that their answers will give you a sense of how they think. The answers will reveal their level of insight and judgment, and will illustrate their problem-solving abilities. And lastly, listening to the answers to your questions will provide clues as to how best to help them develop. It helps you understand which aspects of development they need help and guidance with.
When you choose to develop people this way, it creates the opportunity to mentor them, rather than to simply “train” them. Training is good for technical matters and knowledge acquisition, but if you also want to develop someone’s judgment, you need to share your insights, improve their thought processes, help them understand better ways to approach problem-solving, and basically give them the benefit of your experience.
In addition to adopting a coach-like approach with people, practicing effective delegation is essential. Effective delegation consists of choosing the right tasks to delegate, choosing the right people to delegate to, delegating in such a way that the person grows from the experience, and making sure the work gets done accurately and in a timely manner.
In a nutshell, here is what all of that means…
“Choosing the right task to delegate” – Generally, any task which doesn’t require judgment is a good task to delegate. Also, if one of your goals is to develop a person’s judgment, then choose a non-crucial task requiring some judgment.
“Choosing the right people” – The right person to delegate to is dependent upon their present skill set, their level of self-confidence, their openness to growth, and their level of ambition. Clearly, choosing the right people is an art rather than a science.
“Helping the person grow from the experience” – The success of this is contingent upon using a coach-like approach when delegating. Once you’ve clearly explained what needs to get done, ask questions to not only ascertain whether they understand what’s required, but also to see their thinking process as it pertains to the task at hand.
“Ensuring an accurate and timely completion” – It is essential to let someone know when a task is to be completed and to hold them accountable for its completion. The more important the task, the more critical it becomes to provide ongoing feedback with course corrections. This, of course, will ensure that the work is completed in a timely and accurate fashion, but also demonstrates your integrity by following through on the things you said were important to you.
By effectively developing others, you elevate everyone. As people grow and stretch, their value and their sense of pride expand, which in turn, elicits excellence from them and the entire organization.