How to Nurture & Coach Your Future Leaders
Leadership development strategies should be high on the list of priorities for any organization, particularly for small, medium and large businesses that rely on efficient management teams. But how to nurture & coach your future leaders, so that your business thrives?
Let’s face it: At the core of every successful company is a team of good leaders making good decisions.
It’s been said countless times that a company’s greatest assets are its own employees. Besides, as organizations face accelerated disruption in a digital era, many are looking to leverage their most powerful resource to solve the problems of today and tomorrow: their people.
Bad management is one of the top contributors to low employee engagement, and ultimately, poor retention.
As has been said, people join companies, but they leave managers. The reality is many successful employees will become people managers at some point during their careers, despite the fact that they don’t have the right experience or skills when they step into the role.
Business owners can’t just sit back and wait for new leaders to arrive, fully developed.
They must actively identify employees with leadership potential and then find ways to nurture and develop that potential. Leaving talent development to chance isn’t a good option for any organization, but it’s critically important for business owners who are thinking of retiring or who have an aging workforce.
It’s up to YOU, whether you are a business owner or a manager, to train your leaders well and also make every effort to retain them.
As the nature of work continues to change and the war for talent wages on, we must invest in foundational leadership development at every level in the organization: from recent graduates to experienced senior managers. Learn how you can nurture your future leaders by helping your employees reach their full potential. I’m going to give you 5 ways that you can go about nurturing your future leaders.
Rule #1 : Give Them Wider Exposure
There is no better way to help your future leaders understand the full scope of a business than to encourage exploration of other departments. By stepping outside of their comfort zones, your future leaders will gain firsthand knowledge into each working part of the business engine. This kind of exposure to other aspects of the business can also spark innovative and creative thinking for future leaders.
Exposure to peers — and to colleagues, customer feedback social networks, and more — is a highly effective way to train leaders.
Typically, organizations that do this well create an environment in which talent can easily gather valuable, relevant business intelligence. In fact, organizations that offer exposure as part of their leadership development efforts are twice as likely to innovate and anticipate change compared to firms that offer only formal training programs.
You want to give your future leaders first-hand experience in many different roles throughout your company.
When preparing future leaders effectively in situations where added responsibilities cannot be provided, consider opening their eyes to other areas of the business that are beyond their usual dealings. Getting your future leaders to participate in management board meetings or presenting to a group of business unit managers is a great way for them to broaden their scope of the organization.
Everybody has some limitations, but real leaders are the one who is constantly trying to push their envelopes and looking to explore the side that they thought never existed.
It is only when they are challenged to do some unfamiliar jobs; they get to know their strength and weaknesses. It is part of the stretch assignment where they will be challenged to work under situations which is unfamiliar to them and have to inherent certain level of risk in that. Success or failure isn’t that important instead they learn from each step they take and that will surely boost their confidence and increase their commitment level as well.
Once again, give high-potentials firsthand experience by rotating them through different roles and functions within the organization.
The point is to challenge, push, and stretch their skill level. Put them in unfamiliar roles, give them new responsibilities so they get exposure to new skills, and expand their expertise. Leadership development works best when your future leaders understand the importance of all the different roles in your organization. One day, it will be them making decisions that could affect all areas of the business, so it’s important that they develop an understanding from different perspectives.
Rule #2 : Be Supportive
As an employer, you have a responsibility to support all your employees and your future leaders who will depend on you for support while they further their careers. Not all the decisions they make will be your ideal course of action, yet outwardly showing support for your future leaders demonstrates trust and respect in them.
Many firms assume that their next partners will simply appear, ready to lead…And then there is disappointment and frustration when the next generation is not up to the job.
But amongst the leaders I met, there was widespread agreement that leaders aren’t born, they are developed. And they need you to show them the way. Ideally you should have a structured program to help talented staff members gain the skills they will need to eventually take over. A mentorship program, where they can watch the way you operate up close, is also a good idea so they can see good leadership modeled to them.
Coaching and mentoring are powerful components that play vital, and slightly different, roles in growing employees into leaders.
Mentoring differs from coaching in that it generally occurs over a longer period of time and focuses on developing the individual holistically for the future. Coaching normally focuses on the short-term. Coaching helps an individual overcome a specific, current issue or performance challenge. Used together, mentoring and coaching strengthen and mature future leaders.
Don’t forget to give them a pat on the back. This sounds very simple and in theory, it should be. However, many employees say that they don’t feel valued by their boss.
Recognizing employee achievements and success stories will help you to boost morale within your team. Don’t forget that when giving recognition, you should praise both individual and team successes. So, patting your employees on the back, no matter how small or big their success, will make them feel more motivated and confident in their own abilities. Most importantly, it will show them that the business as a whole appreciates them.
Aspiring leaders should feel that there is someone they can turn to for advice, guidance, and support on a professional level.
Make sure that you’re providing ample training and professional development opportunities so that young employees can feel empowered to take on more responsibility within their job. People do better work when they feel adequately prepared with the knowledge and skills required to use their own judgment rather than always relying on their superiors.
Rule #3 : Soften Their Skills
One of the biggest challenges you will have in terms of leadership has to do with people, and the ability to lead them. They may have great management skills, but that doesn’t mean they can effectively lead others. In fact, it’s a low percentage of people who naturally have the people skill trifecta: the ability to lead, manage and coach others.
Soft skills are unlike hard skills in that they are less measurable and harder to quantify — but just as vital for leaders to possess.
While technical skills are important, study after study shows that organizations that prioritize soft skills will see the highest return on their investment. To eventually lead a team towards transformation, your high potentials will need to prioritize inner transformation first and foremost.
What you’ll find is that some of your employees will show high performance, but they just aren’t cut out to be leaders, as much as they’d like to be in that role.
Sure, performance is a measure of ability and expertise, and necessary to identify a leader, but you need to look beyond performance to understand an employee’s desire and aptitude to grow, develop others, cast a vision, communicate superbly, build a team, and influence all levels of the organization. Proceed with caution, and always give more weight to potential than performance on the leadership scale.
Effective leaders have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace.
Soft skills are extremely important, both as a leader and as an employee, since technological expertise alone can never compensate for teamwork, motivation, creative and critical thinking or conflict resolution. Soft skills enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills. Understanding each one and how to develop it will give you an advantage over your competition.
The cornerstone of any great leader is the ability to not only communicate well and build rapport, but also be able to adapt to all levels of the business.
When an employee adheres to the needs of the person they are interacting with through a flexible communicative approach, you may have a budding leader on your hands. Additionally, collaborative heads who encourage teamwork often get the best out of their people and boost morale. If there are employees who cooperate well with others to produce positive outcomes, they could potentially be on the radar as a future leader.
Rule #4 : Let Them Play With Fire
Placing your future leaders in real business situations will push and stretch them as much as possible while they attempt to solve or overcome the challenges you give them. Giving them difficult or heavy projects will reveal their capabilities and capacities as well as develop their critical thinking skills and creativity when faced with unfamiliar tasks.
Failures can be costly, so it’s little wonder many budding leaders avoid taking risks. Ironically, risk intolerance often ends up costing employers more.
By facing challenges and taking risks, future leaders will learn new skills, and you’ll enhance their commitment to your organization by boosting their confidence in what they can achieve. In today’s fast-changing markets, adapting quickly is essential to staying competitive, and many of the best-led companies intentionally nurture ecosystems that encourage their talent to challenge norms.
Change is constant. To succeed, your future leaders must learn to adjust to the ever-evolving conditions around them.
You may notice an employee who has some leadership potential or expresses an interest in taking on that role in the future, but they may have flaws in terms of maturity or other skills. You need to be able to look past the flaws and assess their current skill set, both strengths and weaknesses, and then make the decision to invest in and believe in them. Once you do that, you can make a game plan for helping them mature and grow in to the type of leader you want to see.
Always be on the lookout for natural leaders.
These people can be differentiated based on not only the quality of work they deliver for the tasks assigned but also based on their ability and willingness to take up additional work, often without being asked to. They can be gradually given additional responsibility and independence to perform their job. Also, there will always be people who are capable but don’t have enough motivation or confidence to step up. These people need to be handled sensitively and may need additional focus to identify their fears and motivations so that those can be worked upon.
Unchain new responsibilities and task your employee with the opportunity to own projects, make decisions with autonomy or work with outside stakeholders.
This fortifies the trust you have in them and provides fantastic challenges to extend existing capabilities. Other ways your leader could flourish is through smaller leadership roles like running business unit meetings or being part of a company committee. Bear in mind that they might make mistakes. That is part of the journey that will enable them to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.
Rule #5 : Foster Their Confidence
A great way to show that you have faith in an employee’s abilities is by giving them room to take charge of their own work. If they always have to be checking in with their superior to find out what they need to work on next, chances are they won’t feel like they have ownership over their job, and won’t take as much pride in what they do.
Self confidence is an important aspect of leadership and management. Without it, people who aspire to leadership will be less effective leaders.
When you build self confidence, you start to back yourself. You start to believe that you’re capable. You start to believe that you are worth it, and that you know what you are talking about. When you spend most of your time feeling comfortable and safe, you can feel incredibly exposed when something doesn’t go quite to plan. But when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you start to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Once you are comfortable with the unknown and the uncertain, problems generally become easier to overcome, and are less stressful.
Confidence is the foundation of leadership. You can teach a leader to become more decisive; a better communicator; how to coach, mentor and hold team members accountable; and many other fundamentals of leadership.
Yet, without that leader first believing in himself or herself, true leadership will exist only in title. In essence, related to leadership confidence, the first sale must be to yourself. Meaning, that if you don’t believe that you have the personal confidence to lead, gaining followers will be tough, or impossible. Generally, when a leader exhibits confidence, it makes it easier to trust that leader, and people want to work with leaders they trust.
Through an appraisal and feedback process, encourage them to develop a career path that they would like to pursue and help them define goals and guide them on the possible options to achieve them.
Through regular one on one meetings, try to keep yourself informed on what they are working on, what their motivation levels are and if they are facing any challenges. Also, this is a great opportunity to help them develop their independent thinking. When they come up to you with a problem, instead of giving a direct solution, try to give them pointers so that they can develop their end solution.
Leaders who believe their own ideas to be superior to those of their team members will poison the organization.
Leaders who believe that their role or status affords them unnecessary or undue privileges aren’t thinking about the best interest of the whole. Instead, confidence is key. Confident leaders are decisive, bold, charismatic, motivating, and yet humble–secure enough in themselves to let others take the wheel. In fact, the best leaders are confident enough in their own leadership that they are eager to hand the reins to their capable and well-developed team members.
Finally, if you know you have high-potentials who will make exceptional leaders, they may not know it themselves, so don’t thwart their development! Help them become more aware of their unique skills, and bring out their strengths and talents so they can accelerate their development.
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
Developing leaders in the workplace is critical to the long-term success of every organization. Effective leaders understand that identifying and cultivating leadership skills within teams fosters a culture of improvement, engagement and growth. Nurturing the qualities that make great leaders provides a springboard for people to easily transition into the role when there is change, or when it is necessary to delegate executive responsibilities.
What’s more, employees will likely imitate, for better or worse, the management style they’ve seen firsthand.
Without the opportunity to learn best practices in management or general leadership skills, companies are perpetuating a vicious cycle of bad leaders that can ultimately lead to bigger problems across the company. It’s your duty to weave training and career development opportunities into the fabric of your company culture.
Great leaders are advocates of fostering the talents of those they lead.
By developing skills for future leadership, they are assuring an organizations longevity, quality talent and increased productivity. Let your potential managers test the waters with increased accountability and learning opportunities to keep them engaged. The day will come when they will prove themselves to be a valued leader in their own right and that is the best investment you would have made for your business.
Such nurturing of future leaders should be part of everyday life for those who want to sustain and grow their organizations.
A sustainable leadership pipeline is critical for any organization looking to prosper long term. What leadership behaviors do you feel are important in your high-potentials? Let’s share your thoughts in the comments below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.