Four leadership development skills to spark real change
How leaders can leverage the strengths of their teams
I recently facilitated a team session with a client focused on workplace communication and the importance of adapting your own style to other styles and personalities. After the session, I reflected on how complex human beings are and how much effort it takes to create a productive and positive workplace; and, how significant a role leadership development plays in this process. Developing leaders so they can help shape these environments for healthy discussion (in conflict or agreement) and lead to constructive decision-making and outcomes is key to building productive workplaces.
Here are a few tips for leaders to consider as they hone their own skills and leverage the strengths of their teams.
No. 1: Style
Style is what shows up first. As humans, we notice the way he/she dresses, acts, talks and listens. Style leaves a lasting impression. Often, employees have limited exposure to leaders and are apt to judge on style alone.
For leaders or developing leaders, this can be an important starting point or area of focus. Tools, such as 360-degree feedback, can help leaders become more aware of their impact on others and create opportunities for change. Any form of feedback should be valuable to a leader who wants to be more effective.
Many of the leaders that I have worked with have the best of intentions, yet don’t always understand how their style might be perceived or might get in the way of showing their best self. Once this is understood, leaders have an opportunity to adjust their approach or style, which can have an incredibly positive impact on relationships, communication and the organization.
No. 2: Skills
Leaders need to focus on building a variety of skills to round out gaps and increase soft skills for their personal growth and their organization. This includes a mixture of skills such as presenting, decision-making, showing empathy, giving feedback, managing conflict and communication in all forms.
Most leaders have natural abilities in some of these areas, so it’s a matter of adding to their existing skillset and tweaking their skills in certain areas to help them manage the daily complexities, grow their employees and create a healthy environment. In developing soft skills, it’s important to recognize what's needed for a particular job and to weigh each skill.
It’s also important to see what gaps are present and who can fill those gaps within the team or organization. Good development is a combination of strengthening natural abilities and gap areas, as well as identifying ways to leverage others’ skills.
No. 3: Experience
A variety of on-the-job experiences are important for ongoing development. Many companies will consider cross-training or shadowing to provide insights into other jobs. These experiences can be valuable on multiple levels.
Finding ways to help employees see other parts of the business can be helpful in breaking down silos and offering new perspectives. Someone who has only worked in sales may only tap into their sales perspective, which can be counter-productive to strong decision-making and collaboration. Offering this employee an opportunity to experience a rotation in production, for example, could give them a broader context of the business and go a long way toward creating optimal decision-making and outcomes.
No. 4: Maturity
This is the ability to be an observer of oneself, respond to the environment around you and be open to feedback. In my experience, helping leaders mature is critical to success. However, this can be the most challenging area to develop as knowledge often comes from life lessons. And the more complex the environment, the greater the need for a mature leader.
Many times, organizations hire for a resume or experience and find out later that a leader can't handle the complexity of the job. The Maturity Assessment model can offer clues for hiring managers or business owners for what to look for in an interview in order to assess maturity.
Development requires the ability to look within and observe. Focusing on these four key elements — style, skills, experience and maturity – can have a significant impact on a leader’s ability to develop, engage and contribute to the creation of a positive and productive workplace while growing other leaders within the organization. Focusing on any one of these elements alone can be helpful, but in my experience, it takes a multi-faceted approach to achieve full growth and development. Leaders who proactively focus on development will enhance their ability to manage in ever-growing complex business situations and teach these skills to the next generation of leaders.