The recession may be over, but in many markets it’s still a tough uphill battle to succeed.
Businesses can’t remain competitive without the combined efforts of a top-notch team.
And each team member must be enabled and encouraged to reach his or her maximum potential — not only for the good of the employee, but for the future of the company.
President and CEO of executive advisory firm Dynam Consulting Theresa Ashby helps business leaders understand this critical directive.
“A smart leader of a growth-oriented company doesn’t just seek employees to fill an immediate need,” says Ashby. “He or she hires with an eye toward an employee’s potential, keeping in mind future needs of the company.”
So how do you help employees grow toward their full potential? Ashby suggests four important ways:
1. Understand each of your players and their goals
Begin with a simple conversation. Ask key questions such as, “What’s your dream job?” and, “What do you enjoy most at work?”
Try not to project what you think that person needs to succeed. Instead, listen carefully, and then do your best to understand and implement a plan to ensure your employee achieves his/her goals, especially when they match the demands of your business. If you’re head of the accounting department, don’t assume that the star director is dreaming of an advanced career in finance.
Look beyond — see your company of tomorrow— and you’ll detect a broader scope of potential career paths in your workplace. Then, identify steps that would propel him or her into becoming a successful contributor in a different way in that future.
2. Hunt for hidden team treasure
Your employees most likely have hidden skills that, if inspired, could benefit your company. Take a long hard look at the individuals in your organization. Who is your next executive leader? Who is going to answer the needs of your company during a growth phase? Who is the best candidate for a critical project?
Take stock of each employee’s skills, accomplishments, demonstrated talents, goals, and potential for growth in key core areas such as leadership. What if great talents are hiding below the surface and you’re missing them?
A team member may dream of a promotion. Make it a tangible goal, a potential reality with development of suitable skills for the job. This doesn’t need to be a difficult or technical process:
- Learn more about the employee’s aspirational dreams
- Guide the employee through the conversation toward a destination that works for both of you
- Advise the employee of available resources
- Keep it an open and continuing dialogue versus a one-time lecture or directive
3. Make coaches available
Ashby strongly suggests embracing external coaching programs.
“There is something to be said for making outside coaches available to your entire team. As an executive, you’re providing a resource that can exponentially increase ones capacity; the employee can up their game as a leader and accomplish corporate initiatives faster and more efficiently. From the employee’s perspective, they can feel free to ask any questions of an outsider without feeling they have endangered their career path and they gain a fresh outside perspective.
“All great coaches push people to perform at their peak. When employees are free to learn and develop their knowledge base and skills set, they’ll improve their performance and will also be ready when the company needs them to step into accomplishing more demanding initiatives.”
4. Save some grease for the quiet cog
They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And that can be useful in dealing with employees who are struggling and need further development. But what about the outstanding performer?
If someone is performing well in a position, don’t assume that’s where the employee should remain. A lot of people want to be included in leadership development, receive mentoring toward their goals, or get executive coaching to develop their business acumen. But they are often overlooked for this support and coaching because they’re already so good at their current role.
They may even work up the courage to ask to be included in leadership development and still be overlooked. Are you focused too much on employees who need more basic help?
Invest resources in the right employee. Don’t lose a great employee who deserves to be accelerated. If you don’t recognize talent and potential beyond current successes — a true hot commodity — some other company surely will.
Once an employee feels valued enough for executive and managerial development, performance rockets to the highest levels, your company’s assets grow, and you create a competitive advantage. Retention of already-great employees improves when they feel valued and are offered a path to new adventures.
Ashby reminds us a growth-oriented company begins with growth-oriented employees. It’s up to you to make it happen for them. And if your company needs a staff full of heroes, they’ll make it happen for you.