"Tend to the people, and they will tend to the business." --John Maxwell
It's gardening season. I'm not an expert gardener but I dabble enough to know that the soil needs the right amendments in order to provide the plant with the right amount of nutrients to grow effectively and produce the fruits or vegetables I hope to harvest. So it is with the people you lead. They need to have the right amendments to have what they need (nutrients) to grow. Whether growing plants or people it's work. The reward for all that hard work is capable employees that will work to the top of their abilities and credentialing with passion and dedication within a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
The difference between plants and people is that there are amendment formulas for soil based on the soil and the plant that you are growing, and there are not any formulas for the environment or the people you are growing. There are so many variables when it comes to human beings as they are complex, however, I have found the following list to be helpful as you figure out the right formula for each of the people you lead in any environment:
Encourage professional development. Create a development plan with them, identify any gaps, and establish specific training objectives. While not all people need to grow into leaders they all influence one another.
Discuss the organizational goals and how that is tied to their career goals. Goals should be based on their strengths, interests, and experience.
Be a mentor to them as this fosters a positive and productive working relationship. Yes, this is where I say, "lead by example." It may also be appropriate to pair them with a work mentor that does a similar role as them so they will have support from an experienced peer in order to do their best. People who are coached with encouragement are better able to adapt to changes within any organization.
Help them build their networks. If they are well connected, so will you be with important information. Recommend professional organizations that they can become members of and perhaps play a leadership role in.
Challenge people with assignments. Most people don't want to do the same thing every day and enjoy a challenge. Professional growth happens when people leave their comfort zones.
Show them you trust them by giving them autonomy. You can trust them to do the job they were hired for, but you have to get out of the way. Let them know what your expectations are, model the behavior you expect, and value credibility. This will provide greater ownership and accountability than micromanagement ever would.
Show appreciation by acknowledging how hard they work, a job well done, or when they go above and beyond. Remember to say thank you. Everyone needs to feel appreciated.
Listen, listen, and listen. I love that old adage that we have two ears and one mouth so we need to listen twice as much as we talk. When you listen it gives you information about what people know and don't know, how they think and process, what type of learner they are, and where there may be a need for training. When you listen you create mutual respect because you are saying "I care" and "I respect your thoughts and ideas."
Provide feedback frequently. People need both positive and corrective feedback to know if what they are doing is in the right direction. Providing specific examples of a person's work, behavior, or actions feel more like an observation than personal judgment.
Know when the people are not a good fit for the position. It happens. Just like plants need to be moved so do people. You are creating a garden based on the harvest you want to collect.
Ask questions. Whether leading, coaching, or mentoring it is best to put statements and requests in the form of a question. It opens up the conversation and feels less demanding to the people you are leading.
Delegate and let people do things the way they think makes the most sense since they are the one doing the work. If you think there is a better way, ask them if it makes sense to do it differently, and do make them part of the decision-making process instead of demanding it be done in a specific way.
Navigating organizational politics can be tricky in any organization. It's the way things get done and certain behaviors of others can be just as tricky. Allow them to job shadow or role-play with them to help educate them about these processes and people.
Consistency is key. Like gardening, the people you manage need daily and weekly care. Neglecting them for weeks and months at a time is not relationship building. People like gardens need weeding, watering, and feeding. This consistent attention and support is needed for consistent growth.
Celebrate with them and have fun together as a team! This, unfortunately, in my opinion, is the most missed opportunity to strengthen the leader-people bond. Take time to celebrate the successes. It can be a simple lunch or an afternoon activity like a game of bowling or a couple of hours at the lake.
Whether you are growing plants or people, both need you to provide the right amendments to grow to their full potential. When leaders take the time and energy to support people in their goals, listen to their ideas and provide challenging work that fits their growth curve a culture of productivity and engagement emerges as a harvest.
If you would be interested in a leadership workshop or a team building event, please contact us!