3 Tactics to Develop Your Employees into Leaders

A fundamental lesson I learned, early in my career, is a leader must be intentional with developing his or her team.  The development plan needs to be a continuous process.  As a basic human element, people need to feel like they’re progressing and learning new skills or knowledge.  Once the journey of learning ceases in the workplace, job un-fulfillment and un-satisfaction is not too far behind. 

At my first (real) job after college, I reported to a company leader that believed in this wholeheartedly.  He consistently looked for ways to facilitate his team’s growth.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for him during those early years in my career, and eventually was promoted into a leadership in the same company.  Since then, I’ve adopted 3 strategies that I’ve deployed when leading a team.  

1. Be a Mentor

Mentoring comes with many benefits.  Obviously, the mentee will gain from it, but so will the leader.  Mentoring helps the leader view the organization with a fresh eye toward its functions, politics and culture.  From my experience, I’ve gained a new understanding of how people from different generations or backgrounds approach their work and careers, which I’ve found to be fascinating.  Not to mention, the personal satisfaction and fulfillment I’ve gained from my mentoring relationships. 

As for the mentee, the following are a few of the many advantages:  provides an opportunity to develop new skills and expertise, refines organization awareness and insight, and provides support during times of change and transition. 

2. Teach Them to Network

Regardless of what type of company or the industry you work in – relationships matter.  Building and maintaining relationships is a key trait everyone must possess.  Networking is an effective way to meet new people and establish new relationships. 

It’s important to understand how to network.  There are rules to follow in order to be effective.  Networking is not difficult to do; rather there are a few simple steps to follow.

  • Attend a professional group meeting that appears to be interesting or it’s related to specific job functions.  For example, an HR professional may consider joining SHRM and attending their monthly meetings.  Like most professional group, SHRM has regional chapters and a national organization that discuss latest trends, topics and issues for HR folks.
  • Sit with strangers.  Many networking events are held over lunch.  Always sit at a table with people you don’t know.  Often, colleagues will attend an event together and will not leave each other’s sight.  I understand it’s comfortable to sit together.  Don’t do that.  Sit with strangers and introduce yourself.   
  • “How can I help you?” mentality.  Too often when I attend networking events, I will meet a sales guy that is looking for me to help him meet the next person that will buy from him.  That is the wrong approach to networking and it’s a sure way to turn people off.  Instead, I always meet people and ask them how I can help them.  I believe in helping others even if they can’t repay me back.  In my mind, this is the best way to establish a new relationship.

3. Create an Ownership Mentality

The most effective way to create an ownership mentality is to be transparent with the financial state of the company and the business unit that is under the leaders control.  This is a lesson I learned from my first employer.  Once a week, the company’s CEO would hold a company-wide meeting to review the P&L. 

We would assess the current month and quarter performance, and how it was impacting our annual trend.  On each line item, the CEO would talk to the company’s actual revenue or expense compared to the budget.  During these meetings, I learned a lot about company finances and how certain decisions or actions impact the business. 

For example, I remember a time when a production issue arose. I heard about it in passing, but since I was in a sales role and knew the issue wouldn’t impact inventory – I didn’t think much about it.  That was until I saw how it impacted the P&L.  During the next weekly meeting, the CEO explained one of our suppliers was out of stock of a material, which forced our company to purchase from another source at a higher price.  Luckily the issue didn’t impact our clients but it most certainly affected our company. 

Many companies experience situations or issues similar to this example.  Generally speaking, I don’t believe most employees get exposure to this type of transparency.  Once employees receive this type of understanding – it fosters an ownership mentality.  I can personally attest, it was a tremendous wealth of knowledge gained and it trained me to think like an owner – even at the young age of 25.