Leadership is a hot topic right now. But not for the usual reasons. In the past, employers chose some folks to get special training or assign expanded roles, so they could gain new skills and move up the ranks of the organization. This worked when organizations were hierarchical. But today, with flatter structures that look more like every-changing networks, everybody needs to be spotlighted, and everybody needs to be trained, and everybody needs to be given new challenges, and everybody needs to rise up with the company as it grows, expands, and evolves. Today, everyone must become a leader.
What can you do to engage your employees and have them seek to continually learn and extend their areas of expertise? Here are some suggestions.
- Let everyone know that you expect each employee to assume whatever role or project or direction the organization identifies as strategic. Tell them you are proactively addressing new technologies, customers, products, and interconnections that will allow the organization to be more profitable, productive, and proactive. This is required to be competitive in a global marketplace.
- Also let workers know that you will provide them with the resources they need to handle their new responsibilities well. You are a team; you depend on each other; you both must be committed to the strategic goals of the organization.
- Expose them to opportunities for new learning experiences. Bring targeted training on site, provide online classes, link them to valuable information and business trends, encourage them to network with other professionals and collaborate.
- Hold them responsible for personal and professional development. Have an Individualized Development Plan become a part of their performance review. As you look over the past and focus on the future, help them formulate what the next six months might look like, what will be expected of them, identify skill gaps, and get them to commit to an educational and/or experiential plan of action. Have both the supervisor and employee sign-off on this plan, schedule and hold monthly meetings to discuss the progress being made. This allows for strategic goals to guide the process and requires active participation by each party.
- Create strong work teams, both on-site and virtual. Encourage collaboration and innovation.
- Rotate leadership positions, like leading meetings or managing projects. Let all team members know their roles are vital to the work being done and that they can rise to the occasion and become a leader (this is where training bolsters their self-confidence).
- Aim for diverse work teams. Mix age groups and ethnicities/cultures. Don’t play favorites (giving new people the plum projects) or make assumptions about what people can/can’t do (older employees can’t “do” technology). Show them that you have faith in the team and expect them to work as a team. If some of the members aren’t up to speed, provide them with the training and resources they need and encourage the team to mentor and teach each other new skills.
- Aim for creating and sustaining a high-performance organization with a continuous-learning environment. Create a culture of innovation, using diversity as your competitive edge, and supporting a team-based collaborative workplace where each employee is valued and engaged.
Every employee must become a leader in successful organizations – today and tomorrow. With the every-changing, ever-increasing fast pace we are encountering today, and the introduction of new technologies and expanding marketplaces, workforce’s, and workplaces predicted for tomorrow, all the while trying to conserve resources and stay within tight budgets, it takes the commitment and vision of all employees to not only survive, but thrive in this new world of business.
For more information on the Courage to Lead, a training course designed to contribute to the development of organizational leaders, contact me at [email protected] and I will send you more information. This course will provide participants with thought-provoking information as well as tools to understand their leadership roles, and how to meet the challenges of being an effective leader. Now is the time to plan the future.