It’s no longer enough for growing companies to train employees in the skills they need to do their jobs. Team leaders and managers must also help their people develop leadership skills. After all, when current leaders move upwards, they need people who can move into their roles. The time to develop these important skills isn’t when someone earns a job title with the words, manager, leader, supervisor, or executive in it.
Not only that, 64% of businesses are struggling to attract talent. This is a problem that can be mitigated by developing leadership from within the ranks. Further, a quarter of the organizations surveyed in the same article had a person prepared for and willing to move into a leadership role for only one out of ten open positions.
There are other factors in play as well. Boomers are moving into retirement quickly. Members of Gen Z will be moving into the workforce soon. Let’s not overlook the fact that people with leadership skills are needed at all levels of an organization. Employee leadership development is key, and the following strategies will enable employees to act as leaders no matter where they are in the organization.
Get Employee Feedback on The Current State of Leadership Development
One of the stickier problems with leadership development is that these efforts are often based on perceived needs, not actual needs. For example, an executive who’s far removed from working in the ‘trenches’, may work with HR to develop a leadership program that would have worked for them. Unfortunately, that may not meet the needs of employees currently.
It’s important to reach out to employees and survey them on their thoughts regarding the current state of leadership development in your organizations. Some questions to ask include:
- Have the programs you participated in truly prepared you to move into leadership roles?
- Are you using leadership training in your current position?
- Do you have adequate time to work on developing your leadership skills?
- What can be done to help you develop leadership skills that isn’t being done now?
- Do you think management is understands your needs when it comes to becoming an leader?
Create Policies And Procedures That Empower
When workplace policies are too restrictive employees miss out on opportunities to learn important leadership skills. By the book policies don’t enable people to learn problem solving skills. They also take the worker’s focus off of pleasing the customer or doing what’s beneficial for the organization. Instead, they are too concerned with following the rules.
Instead, build flexibility into policies. Wherever it’s reasonably possible, allow team members the autonomy they need to think creatively, solve problems, and act in the best interests of the organization as situations reveal themselves. Yes, there will be missteps along the way, but those can be used as learning opportunities as well.
Encourage Participation in Community Events And Employer Sponsored Initiatives
A business doesn’t exist as an island. They are part of the communities in which they do business. Good leaders understand this. They take an active role in the community, and participate in events and charitable initiatives. Up and coming leaders should take part in these activities as early as possible.
Dr. Moshe Kantor recently pointed out on Twitter, “Good leaders understand the needs of their community. They understand and appreciate the infrastructure and opportunities those communities provide for them as well. Because of this, they honor their part of the social contract by actively participating in and creating initiatives that work towards the greater good.”
Bring Employees to Trade Shows And Networking Events
When it comes to events such as trade shows or even networking evenings, many organizations tend only to send upper management and sales people. This is a shame, because there are so many important things that emerging leaders can pick up. These are perfect opportunities to teach networking skills, to introduce employees to potential customers and business partners, and to educate them on the various relationships that the company has with other people and businesses.
Give Them Opportunities to Act as Leaders
One of the most effective ways to build leadership capabilities is to simply provide people with opportunities to take on leadership responsibilities. Rather than handing out tasks, it’s better to focus on providing employees with problems to solve and then providing guidance and mentoring.
As they work to solve problems, as opposed to simply completing tasks, they learn to identify resource needs, maintain scope, and work with whatever constraints they may face. Employees that show mastery of those skills can then be further empowered by taking leadership roles on smaller teams working on increasingly bigger projects. This will help them to develop skills such as human resources management, team building, and project management.
Educate Employees About The Entire Organization
Effective workers understand how the work they do impacts their team. Effective leaders understand how the success or failures of their team impacts other teams and the organization as a whole. It’s very important to teach team members as much as possible about the entire organization. Here are a few ways to accomplish this:
- Allow employees to attend cross-team meetings and organizational planning sessions.
- Use cross training as a way to educate and motivate.
- Set employees up with mentors in other departments.
- Allow job shadowing.
- Encourage information sharing between departments.
- Empower workers to seek information from other teams.
It’s unfair to employees and the organization to promote people into leadership positions without having developed the appropriate skills. By using the strategies above, workers can begin developing and applying leadership skills at any level of employment.
Independant inbound marketing consultant with 5+ years in the industry, including coaching and developing e-learning courses. Bylines at the Huffington Post, Tech Cocktail, Hackerspace by Lifehacker among others.