TSLH #052: 4 Approaches To Develop The Next Leaders On Your Team

TSLH #052: 4 Approaches To Develop The Next Leaders On Your Team

Read time: 4 minutes


Among the many responsibilities a leader has towards their team, there is one that is often underrepresented: Developing the next leaders on the team.
In my experience, the underrepresentation of that responsibility of any leader stems from a combination of the following:
  • The leader falls prey to the “you need to be a manager if you want to succeed in this company” fallacy. At their core, the leader is not a people person but they want to be a manager just because this is the only way up.
  • The leader is drowning and stuck in solving problems and has short-term focus. This prevents them from putting people’s development on top of their agenda.
  • The company does not have a solid succession planning process that would support the leader in developing their people as the next leaders.
  • The leader simply has no clue where to start when thinking about developing the next leaders on their team.
I can’t do much good on the first three points. I can help with the fourth one though and give you some strategies and actions that you can implement NOW to start developing the people on your team.
Here are the 4 approaches that work best:
Delegate tasks and activities. By delegating tasks to your team members, you provide them with opportunities to take ownership and lead tasks independently. Delegating is not about giving away to others the tasks that bore you. Rather, delegating is about giving tasks, activities, projects to members of your team that will fuel their growth and allow them to get to the next level in their career.
Delegating successfully requires to follow a certain process, which by itself is very easy and straightforward to apply. I suggest these 6 steps:
  1. Use your 1-1’s with your team members to identify things that they like to do at work, and where they want to go with their career. This will give you a lot of good information on what task or project you can delegate to whom.
  2. Once you have a task or project you want to delegate, arrange a meeting with the person on your team you want to delegate to and discuss about expectations, goals, desired outcomes and deadlines.
  3. Set regular check-ins with the person to track progress and give coaching and support where needed.
  4. Provide regular feedback to the person and fill their learning reservoir.
  5. Delegate not only the responsibility but also the authority to make decisions.
  6. Celebrate and recognize success.
Coach and support. It’s fair to say that although most people at work will have an idea of where they want to go with their career, few really take ownership for their career and are proactive in discussing with their manager about what it is that they need in terms of support, training or anything else. This is where being a leader AND a coach will bring many benefits to the people on your team.
When you start coaching your team members about growth and career development, you give them a safe space to reflect and think about what it is they want to do in the future and how to get there. The key here is to let them come up with their solutions and ask for what they need. As the leader of the team, it is then your responsibility to secure those resources that are needed by your people (e.g., training, mentoring with someone else in the organization, working on a specific project, etc.)
Here are a few questions you can use to facilitate that conversation:
  • What energizes you at work? What drains your energy?
  • What are you good at?
  • What skill or knowledge would you need to develop to get to where you want to be?
  • What strength of yours can you leverage to get to your career goal?
  • How would you like me to support you in achieving your career goal?
  • What is one thing you could start doing to demonstrate that you can already perform at the next level?
Share decision making. The one thing I see great leaders constantly do is to share leadership with their team members, specifically when it comes to decision making. These leaders understand that they don’t know everything, and that people on the team may have solutions to address the challenges facing the team.
A great way to develop people on your team is therefore to allow your team members to make informed decisions, and to stay accountable to them. As the leader, your role is then to provide support and air cover against distractions or critics so that people can implement their decisions without fearing pushbacks or blame.
This approach is especially powerful to help your team members learn from the mistakes they make. If you have been reading my newsletter regularly, you know that I am a strong proponent of creating a safe environment for people to make mistakes and learn from them. Sharing decision-making is a key process when people make mistakes or fail: Instead of blame, your role is to encourage a discussion about the learnings and ask the team to come up with solutions to correct the mistake and to make sure it is not repeated in the future.
Offer training and development opportunities. Whatever role I was in, the number #1 complaint I kept reading about in employee satisfaction surveys was “I don’t have opportunities to learn or train!” As the leader, you’re here to help your team members enhance their leadership skills, by securing the needed resources for people to train and develop skills and knowledge.
Now, let’s face it, anyone should know that the person who is the most interested in your development is…
… YOU! Not your manager.
The leader can’t be blamed – not completely at least – because they don’t always focus on the development of their people. However, there are things a leader can do to encourage their team members to step up and take action on training and learning. For instance:
  • Help your team members block time on their calendar, fully devoted to training and learning. In one company I worked with, I created a 2-hour time block for everyone where they could not be distracted by anyone. This was their time for growth, however they wanted to use it: Reading, training, learning, etc.
  • Encourage your team members to use the 70-20-10 learning & development model. This model is based on the awareness that training comes in a lot of different formats. In this model, 70% of the training comes from tasks or projects that got delegated to someone, or shadowing someone at work, or just working on tasks and problems. 20% of the training comes through feedback, coaching and mentoring, working around good and bad examples, discussing with other people about solutions to challenges. 10% of the training comes from courses and reading.
  • Highlight to your team members that courses are only but a tiny bit of how they can develop (see the previous point). Still, many people equate training with courses. You can therefore point them to the Internet, which has tremendous resources. To name only a few, LinkedIn Learning, googling any topic to read about to tackle a specific task or problem, Amazon to get books recommendations, etc.
Remember, developing the next leaders on your team is paramount to your own success. First of all, when you develop leaders on your team, they will take ownership for some of the leadership of the team, which will free up time for you to focus on your own job. Secondly, developing leaders creates a sounding board for you, a group of people you can exchange opinions with, discuss challenges and find and execute solutions to address problems. Lastly, when it is time for you to move to a different role, having developed leaders on your team may greatly facilitate your succession planning.
I wish you a great read. I’ll see you next Saturday!
TL; DR (Too Long, Did not Read)
4 approaches to develop the next leaders on your team
  1. Delegate tasks and activities.
  2. Coach and support.
  3. Share decision making.
  4. Offer training and development opportunities.

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