January 28, 2020

How to help your team members work on themselves

by Wendy Ryan in Blog Roll, Leadership

Leaders need to work on themselves and have a plan for development throughout their careers. That’s one hallmark of true leaders—their desire to continue to grow and develop.

But part of a leader’s responsibility is to facilitate growth in their team members as well, to encourage team members to grow professionally—into new roles and as part of a team.

Leading people to grow goes well beyond asking them to set goals and scheduling quarterly check ins. It requires a special kind of leader who is open to change, tolerant of some failures or missteps and ready to commit their time to support others.

Develop your own goals and objectives.

Having goals and objectives for yourself is important; having goals and objectives that are directly tied to your leadership ability is essential. Even more so, talking to your team, mentors and boss about your goals helps to hold you accountable and demonstrate your desire to get better at what you do. And it shows your team that you’re open to feedback and to change.

Share your own development journey.

As a leader, the best way to encourage your team to grow and develop on their own is to share your journey with them. It sets the tone for a growth-oriented culture, even if the team’s culture feels different from the organization as a whole. Regularly let your team and boss know what you’re working on to develop yourself and talk about your successes and challenges. This opens the door for more conversation and makes it easier for team members to share with you about their own journeys.

Develop areas of improvement together.

Within your immediate team, challenge the team to regularly identify opportunities where it can improve processes and systems, including how individual team members might contribute to this work. You’ll want to set some ground rules for these conversations, but it can become a highly effective framework for delivering valuable peer-to-peer feedback in a supportive environment.

Allow them to choose areas of improvement.

Once you have team-level goals, team members should be able to develop their individual goals for improvement. No one is as bought-in to a goal as when they set their sights on it themselves. You can’t force someone to become a better runner, but they can choose to work on that themselves if it’s an area where they want to grow. Putting it in business terms, if a team member aspires to be a team lead, allow them to focus on building skills and taking on tasks to prepare them for it—and then give them feedback on progress toward that end.

Encourage conversation among team members.

The more you talk about a goal, the more likely you are to accomplish it. Layer periodic goal check-ins with your regular team meetings to ensure everyone is on-track and encourage them to talk about the action steps they’re taking to reach their goals (yourself included). Not only does this give team members an opportunity to positively support one another, it also serves to remind people that reaching any significant goal will involve some setbacks in addition to some wins. It’s a golden opportunity to reinforce the notion that continuous learning, progress and persistence over time in the face of obstacles are what matter most to our long term success.

At SJ Leadership Coach, goal-setting is built into all of our coaching, learning and consulting programs. Depending on the situation, goal-setting may take different forms, such as a long term development plan or a set of objectives for a single day.

The key to success when it comes to team member development is to create spaces and structure for setting goals individually and collectively and for communicating both sets of goals to others.

Of course, leadership is itself in the words of Simon Sinek, the ultimate “infinite game,” meaning within it you can always find new ways to grow. That’s why I created an 8-video series for growing leaders. In less than 30 minutes, you’ll have the ideas and tools you need to make this your best year yet.

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