The Most Powerful Thing Experienced Leaders Do
Helping young leaders get started and grow is the most powerful thing experienced leaders do. Growing young leaders changes individuals and organizations. Helping young leaders get started creates a universe of potential and opportunity that never existed.
Leadership success is always about developing people.
I have great news. Helping young leaders get started and grow is easy.
Believing in someone helps them begin and grow in their leadership journey. Shame on you if you aren’t engaged in believing in the potential of others!
Treasure anyone who believes in you.
Become someone who believes in others.
Karin Hurt, Executive Director, Strategic Partners Channel at Verizon Wireless, says, “Help young leaders know who they are.” Karin tells young leaders:
- Don’t label yourself too early. I hear labels when people say, “I’m not good at…”
- Understand the true nature of leadership. Leaders don’t control people they release them by helping them want to do something.
- Have confidence. In Karin’s experience confidence is a bigger challenge for young female leaders than males.
I asked Karin how she helps young leaders have confidence.
- Get to know who they are. The act of getting to know them is the first step. Feeling known, understood, and accepted enables others to share their fears.
- Talk about their fears. Talking may be all they need to find confidence.
- Find opportunities where you know they can succeed. Create small wins.
- Give stretch assignments after small wins.
Karin shared one of her most gratifying compliments. “You helped me figure out me.”
More suggestions from Facebook contributors:
- Give them opportunities to make mistakes.
- Teach them the value of transparent leadership.
- Teach them meaningful ways to give back.
Read more suggestions from others on Facebook.
How can experienced leaders help young leaders get started and grow?
The most impqrtant thing we can do for any rising or potential leader is to model the behavior we want to see in others; all the time.
The second is to take opportunities to mentor.
Within organizations we can be more observant of people’s soft skills. We must be intentional about our efforts to develop other people.
Once these skills are identified, we can make opportunities to develop those skills by partnering with them ourselves, bringing them into discussions, where apprpriate, and offer them chances to work alongside people who already do what they appear to be good at.
Martina – agree. There was once a woman who had risen to a leadership position (and held it) for a long long time. One morning she called in late for a morning meeting. She said she’d had to make arrangements for her children and the meeting could wait. It was true: good role-modelling.
Months later when asked by a male employee with a long track record of above-average success whether he could shift to three-day-a-week-working so he could look after his newborn son and hence release his wife to return to work for a few days a week, the same female leader told the male employee +her+ child had had an outsourced childcare provider within weeks of its birth: she had returned to work immediately. There was no reference to relative salary-levels at that stage (maybe a nanny was cheap to her; or she was relaxed about carer:child ratios and quality of childcare provision at her price-point); but that was an insight that felt like poor role-modelling to the non-Fordist male employee.
But the leader relented and granted the days. Good role-modelling: golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have [had] done unto youself”.
The female leader then seemed to be the one who got the male employee called into the office on those weekly-unpaid-leave days most often (anyone who has worked “part time”/”Reduced hours” will know what I mean). Not sure if this was good role-modelling or not. Not sure if male employee was not releasing enough responsibility or not; or being tough enough with the female leader. But HR paid him for the extra hours; so that part was good. He kinda pushed for it by accurately recording his hours; they did not go out of their way to offer it; neither did the female leader.
Months later the male employee returned to 5-days-a-week working.
Two years later the male employee was expecting a second child. Mid-way through the pregnancy he got sick. First time in over ten years he took more than two successive days off work. He was over-doing it and was a bit stressed-out. Happened there had been deaths among family & friends in quick succession (one of someone his age – earlys 30s; a grandparent; a stillborn child). Turns out his relationship with his wife was troubled; his wife had had a little post-natal depression and neither of them had picked it up; they’d both worked on through and assumed it was “normal”. Turned out his first child needed daily physiotherapy (before 6pm at night) that his wife couldn’t bring herself to administer for several months and that he couldn’t get home in time to do; chances were the first child would need surgery. And he had been working on two distinct and separate multi-government projects that were not entirely popular and that he had his doubts about elements of (and his employer had a few internal differences of view over) – aside from his normal work (which was in a new team).
He returned to work after a week keeping his hand from his Blackberry and not logging in (on medical advice) and attempting to disregard the query from a team leader about sending him his laptop via parcel mail, to discover his same team leader had been asked to instigate a competency procedure.
Now this was fun. Because the e-mail instigation date of the competency procedure and the time coincided with (or were a few the moments after) he registered the fact that his second child was on the way and that he would like to book paternity leave.
What happened in-between-times is less relevant; but suffice to say that he hit every reasonable target the competency procedure required of him; and then on the morning his second child was born (whilst agreeing to disagree on the legitimacy of the competency procedure being instigated) he received a termination letter from a different female: the female head of HR for his region of the planet. The letter was expected; but not on that date. He worked to clear his projects up as far as he could (he had high professional standards) in the week after his child was born. And he left. His wife was on maternity leave. He had plans; but no job.
Moral of the tale, oh my advisors on natural law? Being a role model means being the role model for everyone: regardless of gender; and women can be just as harsh and warlike as men.
Thank you Martina.
You’ve outdone yourself today. There’s so much meat in your comment.
You align perfectly with Kouzes and Posner when you begin with modeling behavior. Modeling gives you credibility.
Thanks Dan. We are on stage all the time; the good, bad and the ugly.
And even though you may not think you are not modeling…you are…all of the time.
Ding ding… Truth!
This post is brilliant! Now you are in my back yard. That is what teachers are all about: helping young people identify their leadership potential.
I love ALL Karin’s suggestions.
I share my failures and fears with young people. We laugh about them together. I try and help them feel safe when they fail.
I try and find a strength they have that they may not even have yet identified. I describe it to them. I love the look they have when they first realize they have a talent they haven’t recognized.
When I hear young people say, “I’m not good at math.” I always make them say “yet” at the end of a statement like that. I say it over and over until they say it. It’s just a crazy game, but it makes a point.
I love how Karen says, “Give stretch assignments after small wins.”
I stay in touch with my students after they graduate. Very often I do my best “teaching” or mentoring when they are not in my classroom. It is not at all uncommon for them to email me when they encounter a hurdle.
Thank you for this wonderful post!
Thank you Dauna.
Back at you. Wonderful comment. I love that look of recognition and acknowledgment also!
Share our failures…KaPow!!! It gives them permission to try.
Get to know what and who they care about outside work. Don’t turn Orwellian Big Brother on them; but understand where pressue points may build up. Check their objectivity and check whether they are taking on too many as well as enough challenges. Despite the pressures in your schedule, sit down without them and see where they might be on relationships outside work: children; parents; grandparents; grandparents. Does their salary cover a nanny? Does it cover childcare? Does their spouse work? How does your company help its workers plan their work-life balance ahead of and after the arrival of children? How many tired employees have been up with nappies / bottles at night? How many have been helping parents move to sheltered accommodation? How many have been going through the pain of packing away the homes of deceased relatives? How many deaths has each employee known in the past year? Are other stress-triggers proactively monitored? Do you know when they are moving house? Or getting married? Otherwise, trust them to get on with the job. And be prepared to have them be annoyed with you when you have an HR function regularly check for lifechanges and stress triggers. But think of how NASA look after their astronauts. They have ’em wired up and pschological assessed and put ’em through all sorts of tests to make sure they’re perforing at their peak. Same with the teams supporting Olympians and other sportsmen and women performing at their peak. Let them do what they’re best at; and make sure that whilst they’re focused on delivering to your objectives; you are looking out for their health and other long-term best interests. Make sure the goose that lays the golden eggs keeps layin’ ’em to its best long-term ability; and harvest, don’t kill, those Truffula Trees!
Thank you Ben.
Another great addition to the discussion!
Helping young leaders get started and grow requires monitoring. The NASA illustration really drives it home!
Liked the post and the bold statement ‘Leadership success is always developing people’. It’s quite true and all ambitious employees look for good bosses and their directional help/ guidance in shaping their careers. Leaders usually demonstrate their good traits by day-to-day actions and always encourage staff to perform well with required clarity of a job role, pre-defined responsibities and recognition/rewards.
Believing in people could be the essential step for leaders to build a winning team.
Thank you Dr. Asher.
I appreciate you pointing out the “bold” statement and suggesting believing in people could be the essential step toward building a winning team. The power of belief sets people free. Cheers
Wow! This is definitely on time for me. I accepted an adjunct position yesterday at a local university teaching business communications. I’ll probably start teaching leadership classes there in January. This is a brand new venture for me and I’ve been thinking of how I can impact these future leaders. Perfect timing for me to read this. Gotta archive this one for sure! Thnx!!!
Thank you David.
I’ve been connected to college students for years. Working with them is among the most invigorating things I get to do. YOu have my best wished for great success.
Excellent post Dan,, this opems the door between a career that is successful and one that is truly meaningful and fufilling.. Moving from achievement centered to others centered, and still carryiing out the industrial mission. I hope this becomes contagious!
Thank you Ken.
Wow… the difference between successful and meaningful. Thats gold!
Developing younger leaders – in the big picture – is really the only way for us to have a legacy beyond ourselves. Great post!
Thank you Harrison.
We have a lot of young people in our organization but as a different perspective, I’m glad that we don’t have the kind of youth worshipping culture that other companies in our industry have, that only young talent is worth developing. That also keeps the pressure on everyone (in a good way) to continually strive to be better at the technical and management/leadership aspects of our jobs. I enjoy knowing that no matter my age, there is room to grow up in my company. I’ve never thought much about this particular cultural issue before reading the word ‘young’ so many times so thank you very much! and cheers!
Agree heartily. Perhaps “undeveloped” should replace young. I’ve found some real gems that due to their less aggressive natures have never been picked for leadership before. They have a ton of real world experience and patience which makes them excellent personnel managers.
A mix is best I think, young blood to drive new ideas and more experienced staff that tend to have strongly developed corporate skills to get them executed.
Good work! A little maturity and caution and experience can go a long way! I remember a guy a few years off retirement who’d ask the “stupid” question of the young “firebrands”: the questions about their whizzy financial products like “won’t that shift the whole market so much the regulators in Scandinavia won’t be happy”; or “saw this stuff back in the 1970s; lasted two years and then disappeared again”. Whilst he was there, he saved some embarassments outside the meeting room by asking embarassing questions inside the meeting room. “Corporate memory”; “Industry knowledge” beyond what makes it into textbooks; you need some older ladies and gentlemen for that kind of thing! Like your approach fieldgeneral.
Thank you Catie.
ONe of the things I love about blogging is the way contributors add, delete, suggest corrections, etc….
Thanks so much, Dan. I really enjoyed talking with you and hearing your insights. I really appreciate your article.
Thank you Karin.
YOu can see that this topic has real traction with LF readers! Thanks for sharing your insights.
Don’t label yourself too early … powerful. The other side of that is to ensure we are not creating or assigning those labels. I have seen too many young people question and doubt themselves based on thoughtless words and labels placed on them by older and “wiser” folks. Sometimes, those labels come from good intentions but the damage to self-esteem and confidence is done. As leaders, we need to guide, but not define, their path.
Look up Lord Alan Sugar and Duncan Bannatyne from the UK; Sir Richard Branson’s worth a look too. “Pigeon-holing”/labelling is a very risky business at any stage in life. This lady wrote some challenging things about it: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/having-it-all-anne-marie-slaughter-responds-to-readers/259207/ Reading from remarks above, I think it applies to some men too. Single people with no family commitment and no long-term no-conditions friends can simply release more time for work and success. Perhaps there needs to be a deal between such people +and+ between the genders?
Thank you Laurie.
A couple days ago I said something to a young leader that fit into the labeling category. Soooo dumb. I can’t wait till next week when I can take it back…however, it may take time to dig out of a pigeon hole.
Will send you a larger shovel if needed Dan, got several! 😉
So solid, Dan. I’ve been working with them since 1979, and I’ve found that it all starts with believing in them. We have to believe in their capacity to be, to become, and to accomplish. When we believe in them they feel our belief, and it fuels their desire to grow. Thanks for the post!
Thank you Daniel.
“capacity to be, to become, and to accomplish…” Niceee
“Shame on you if you aren’t engaged in believing in the potential of others!”
Every CEO should get that tattooed on their body somewhere. Amen, amen, amen!
Thank you Anthony.
You’re “worse” than me! 🙂
Believing in others is cost effective…it doesn’t cost us anything.
Find ways to open doors of learning for them.
Model value in learning by learning about and with them and thank them for providing you a learning moment. Set up regular coaching or mentoring times. Plan your mentor moments well. Those meetings are often cherished, so do not cancel them times for the latest crisis de jour, Perhaps use the crisis to model learning on the fly.
Because it is a shared journey, early on you may need to point out the vision, mIssion, values alignment trail markers or dots, then watch them connect them.That may require some 5 whys work and review of perceptions about the roles of failure and success. Later on this path, do they point out the markers to you?
Thank you Doc.
“Thank them for providing you a learning moment.” That models the value of learning, elevates them, and humbles us!!
I appreciated Karin Hurt’s observations today and have enjoyed following her insightful daily blog at LetsGrowLeaders.Com
Thank you Larry.
I’m glad you bopped over to Karin’s blog. She has a lot to offer.
My only caveat would be that this is about developing all leaders, not simply young ones. People of all ages, at all stages of their lives need to be developed. They don’t cease to grow or need encoragement and nurturing once they hit middle age.
Excellent article. I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review with a similar message. Many new leaders seem to be under the impression that leadership is about power/control. It’s an easy way to irritate employees and hinder development. Great steps here to make sure that doesn’t happen!
Thank you for this article. Every manager in my organization, from the Director on down needs to read this and act on it.
What a great collection of ideas/suggestions. My hope is for many experience leaders to read this soon. As a recent college graduate and someone who has launched their professional career, I believe that my attitude and passion toward adding value in the organization that I am part of, defines me as a rising/potential leader. A best practices that the company that I work for has started to implement, to build their talent/management pipeline and to help younger leaders realize themselves, is reverse mentorship. The program is still in its infant stage at my company but so far I can see the great benefits of it. Dan, I would love to read about your perspective on reverse mentorship and how more leaders/rising leaders can be impacted by it.