What is one of the most important skills that makes rising leaders successful over the course of a career? The ability to:
- Step back from doing the work,
- Empowering the team to do more, and
- Prioritizing the importance of managing others to be their best.
The question we want to explore in this blog post is, “What is the responsibility of the manager to give his/her team the tools to perform at their greatest potential?”
When a learning leader chooses to work with a coach, their opportunity is to identify areas of growth based on such typical feedback sources as stakeholder interviews, the boss, HR and/or data from a 360 online tool. Learning leaders typically have a good sense of the areas that they want to work on and other sources of feedback help to round out the key themes for growth. Often times, the key themes point to inefficiencies, such as the unmet needs of others or the tendency to overuse strengths and miss other important areas of skill development. The work of the coach is to help clients understand how to more effectively reframe and initiate action steps for more effectively managing others.
I have had the privilege of sitting with hundreds of team leaders over the past 15 years as an Executive Coach. My experience has been that the typical challenges include one or more of the following:
- Gets comfortable in fire-fighting mode for too long and miss the importance of transitioning this to others.
- Has forgotten or never learned how best to reframe their approach to leading teams
- Stays in “doer mode” for too many things, in effect, doing other people’s jobs.
- Misses encouraging the team to establish clear metrics and outcomes and accept vague expressions of intent that are difficult to measure.
- Fails to recognize the importance of interdependence and clear agreements among managers who are more comfortable with the idea of being left alone to do their own thing.
- Isn’t willing to confront poor performance soon enough, hoping that things will just work out.
Often leaders in these predicaments have little insight about how peers and senior leaders perceive the gaps, missed opportunities or inefficiencies of managers who have not learned a better way. When it comes to moving up in an organization or demonstrating the justification for that raise or bonus, key determinants are:
- striking the right balance between doing and empowering others
- delivering great work through effective delegation
- establishing clear, measurable accountabilities
- hiring and then leveraging talent to be their best.
All of these contribute to the talent discussion at senior levels when your name comes up at the table.
Here are some suggestions for how to think about creating an action plan to improve in these areas.
- Assert with intentional curiosity: Develop a curiosity about how you can improve, and what you need to learn and then start a conversation with your boss.
- Ask for feedback: If your boss is too busy to make the time, or you’ve been waiting for him or her to raise the topic and make your development a priority, stop waiting. Schedule a meeting with the specific objective of getting feedback about your performance. Assert to share your need. Are you waiting to feel comfortable? Don’t bother. Take action and you’ll feel better.
- Broaden your circle of support: Ask five other colleagues, including your HR partner for feedback. Don’t settle for vague, supportive expressions about your strengths without development observations that can help you to grow. If you’re only hearing the positive stuff from colleagues, you’ve chosen the wrong colleague.
- Find a mentor: Identify someone in your organization or another colleague who you see as an effective manager and seek advice. Focus on what you need to do to be a more effective, and then practice those new behaviors. Continue to seek feedback from trusted colleagues, team members and your boss.
- Don’t wait to feel ready: Don’t wait to feel competent with implementing new approaches. It’s about practice and guidance and trying new approaches to achieve goals, not overthinking, over-preparing and under-executing.
- Use the power of status conversations: Give your boss periodic updates on how you are specifically working to strengthen a new skill can be a very powerful way of holding yourself accountable for own development.
If it’s been a while since you’ve worked with a coach and think it may be helpful, raise your hand internally to get support. If you’d like talk by phone to sharpen your thinking about performance areas in which you’d like to improve, feel free to reach out, Neal would be happy to spend time with you.