As someone who works with C-Suite talent, you might feel like you don’t need to help your employees develop any further; after all, you hired them because they were already the kind of employees you wanted, right?
Well, let’s be honest. Have any of us really reached our full potential? Each of us has room for improvement, and hopefully we also have an inner drive to progress, learn, and grow. Whether you’re a CEO or someone in middle management hoping to work your way up to the executive level, you still have room to develop in terms of hard skills, soft skills, emotional intelligence, or any combination of the three. The minute anyone feels like they’ve “arrived” is the minute they stop growing.
If you know the truth about yourself, it’s important to recognize it about your employees as well. No matter where they are, you can help them develop further. In doing so, you’ll bolster your culture, improve employee retention, and improve your company’s overall performance.
Now, let’s explore how to help your employees develop to their full potential.
Start Where They Are
We all have to start where we are. Nobody can climb Mt. Everest tomorrow if they can’t even climb up the street to their house without getting winded today. As a leader, you must get a good feel for each team member’s baseline before you can know what their next benchmark should be. You can ascertain this information through regular, productive communication, for which weekly one-on-one meetings are key. Ask useful questions. Ask them how they feel about their job responsibilities. Ask them which elements of their job they find challenging and which they may feel are too easy. Ask them what they’d like to learn and what skills they’d like to develop. Know and understand the career path they’d like to follow, so you can help them take the proper steps to reach their goals.
Not all mistakes are failures; nor are they indications of incompetence or red flags that your employee can’t do his or her job. Nobody ever learned to walk without falling a few times or to write without misspelling a few words. Learn to look at mistakes as coaching opportunities for you and learning opportunities for your people. They indicate possible gaps in knowledge and skills that have potential for improvement; utilize them that way. If you meet mistakes with understanding and empathy (we’ve all made our fair share of them), use them as springboards for productive discussions, and come to see them as steps to climb rather than walls you’ve hit, you’ll be setting the climate for limitless growth and learning.
Build Trusting Relationships
Following on the heels of the last point, in order to have constructive conversations about mistakes or to instruct your team members about changes without building resentment, you’ll first need to establish a relationship of trust with them. They need to know you have their best interests at heart and that you’re looking for ways to help rather than reasons to discipline them. Take every opportunity to build them up and praise their good work. Let employees know how their role impacts the company’s success. That way, when you need to coach them about improvement, they’ll understand you’re on their side.
Aim for the Zone of Proximal Development
In the education industry, they teach something called the zone of proximal development, which refers to “the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner.” This zone is as applicable in the business world as it is in education. Give your team members the opportunity to stretch themselves with assignments that may be outside their comfort zones and typical job roles, but at which they can succeed with proper direction and support. Once they’ve achieved something with the help of management or mentors, they will then be able to achieve it independently.
Grasp Individual Teaching Moments
Formal training seminars or classes are excellent and important. However, don’t underestimate the importance of individual teaching moments or you will miss those opportunities. Vice President of Pariveda Solutions, Margaret Rogers, advises, “Treating every challenge [each] employee faces as an opportunity for practice and growth […] is critical to establishing an environment in which people believe they are valued enough as individuals to be given the time and space to flourish.”
As a leader, when you implement these tactics and strategies in your work interactions, you’ll see astonishing growth in not only your team, but also your organization. Employees will be engaged and satisfied, and you’ll more effectively retain the top talent you worked so hard to recruit.
By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano
President & CEO of Barbachano International (BIP)
Barbachano International is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Canada, and Latin America) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets. Outplacement and Exe