2020 has been a disastrous year in general, and the business world has certainly suffered major losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic: lockdown protocols (though entirely warranted) saw many businesses close their offices and mothball their operations due to their inability to cope. But things haven’t been so bleak for everyone. Some companies have continued to grow, being able and willing to roll with the unusual circumstances, and are currently thriving.
Perhaps you’re in that fortunate position. While others struggled to adapt to remote working and shifts in supply and demand, you weathered the storm and remained on an upward trajectory — and due to that success, your team is still growing. Most likely it’s expanding even faster now that there are so many more talented professionals looking for work.
If so, it’s important that you properly invest in your team. Times won’t always be tough, and you don’t want to lose key workers down the line due to dissatisfaction with your working conditions. What’s more, forging your employees into more capable professionals will make them more valuable to your business — particularly if you can cultivate leadership skills that will make them more responsible and capable of spearheading progress well into the future.
To make it somewhat easier for you to achieve this tricky task, this post will run through five simple ways in which you can nurture leadership skills in your employees. Let’s get to them.
Give them tastes of management
It takes a lot of time and effort to determine someone’s readiness for a leadership role, and the vetting process typically spans years — but the fact that someone won’t be ideally suited to a managerial role for a long time doesn’t mean they can’t (or shouldn’t) learn what it’s like to hold such a role. You can provide a lot of insight by letting your employees sample management.
What might this involve? Well, you could take a day off and put someone in charge of the company while you’re away (with certain limitations). You could introduce them to the systems you use to keep everything in line. You could pass them interesting hypotheticals about what they’d do in particular situations. The more they know about what it’s like to work in management, the better at those tasks they’ll become.
Assign them key responsibilities
The typical employee doesn’t have great responsibilities beyond getting through their workload. They show up to work (or their desk at home, as is more likely now), complete their tasks, then clock out. This is a low-stress way of living, but stress and pressure are valuable tools for developing leadership skills. After all, leaders are often under great pressure.
Accordingly, think about which key responsibilities you could delegate. Take something like online PR: fielding customer queries is a key part of managing your reputation, but you don’t need to do it personally. If there’s someone you trust with speaking for you (and using social media in general), why not put them in charge of social media management?
To be clear, this should be optional: if someone doesn’t want to take on extra responsibility, you shouldn’t try to force them to do it. And you shouldn’t ramp up their workload. If you give them more responsibility, dial back their regular workload so they don’t get overworked. The point isn’t to tire them out. It’s to make their work more meaningful and develop their dedication,
Support their side projects
It’s increasingly common for professionals to run side projects, whether just to take up their free time or also to make them some money. Some of your workers might run small businesses in their spare time (online stores, maybe), while others might engage in community organization efforts. If you hear about such projects, you should make an effort to support them.
If you can find the budget to donate to them, do it. If they’re willing to listen to advice, give as much as you can. While most such projects will be solo, they’re still great for encouraging leadership because they teach people how to be 100% responsible for projects and have no one else to blame when they go wrong.
Encourage mutual support
The bigger your team gets, the more likely it becomes that any given employee can learn from their coworkers both professionally and personally — but it won’t necessarily happen, especially now that people are mostly working from home. Since you’ll have the benefit of knowing a reasonable amount about each person, you can look for interesting support opportunities.
Maybe one person is trying to learn how to write better emails, while another has a strong record of doing just that. Perhaps one worker is trying to boost their productivity and they’d really stand to benefit from discussing efficiency tactics with their hyper-consistent coworker. You can find time in the working schedule to accommodate some mutual training sessions.
Why would you do this for skills that don’t pertain to leadership? Because it isn’t about the person being taught. It’s about the person doing the teaching. A big part of leadership is being able to coach people through what they need to do, so getting members of your team to do that will ultimately make them better leaders.
Set an excellent example
Lastly, the simplest way to nurture leadership skills in your growing team is to be an excellent leader and set a great example. The people who work under your leadership will look to you for guidance, and will see you as a role model in some ways. If you shirk your responsibilities and blame others for your failings, for instance, they’ll likely follow suit to some extent.
On the other hand, if you work incredibly hard and show absolute commitment to your business and your employees, they’ll be grateful for your attitude and want to be similarly reliable when they eventually assume leadership rules. So don’t think that you can get away with encouraging commitment without showing it: it’s what you do that really matters, not what you say.
Written by Rodney Laws, Owner of ecommerceplatforms.io
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