Guest post from Taffy Williams:
Leaders must be creative and agile in their thinking in order to create the leaders of tomorrow. It is easy to stand back and give orders and assume all knowledge resides with top management of the business. Working in this manner fails to utilize the skills and knowledge of the workforce, diminishes their critical thinking skills, and stifles their creativity. Failure to encourage and demand more agile and critical thinking from the team results in management having to figure out everything all alone.Good leaders develop the skills of their teams and those leaders learn from the team as well. It is critical to recognize that one person does not possess all knowledge and that other team members may be better suited to solve critical issues. Working with the team and taking advantage of the 6 concepts below will help create a stronger team that is more willing to follow their leader. It also will help the leader with the critical task of succession planning.
1) Teaching: Teaching goes both ways. It is not possible for one person to know everything, so teaching the team what you know best and learning what they know are both important. People often view their teachers with respect and they feel empowered with new knowledge and improved skills. The benefits go in both directions and newly learned skills help the team become better able to take on more complex challenges.
2) Helping: Sooner or later, tasks may become beyond the skill set of anyone. This is a great time to enhance capabilities by aiding the team without doing the job for them. It is a teachable moment and the act of helping and teaching will further their skills and build a stronger relationship. It is much easier for people to follow a leader they know wants them to succeed.
3) Problem solving: Problems do not always have a readymade solution. It may require all the creativity and ingenuity of the full team to identify and resolve the problem. Participation in the review and decisions of steps leading to a solution build stronger teams. The team will be more inclined to follow when they see the leader in the trenches with them. A new solution generated by the team creates strong feelings of accomplishment and greater feelings of ability to tackle larger issues.
4) Encouraging: Everyone needs encouragement from time to time. This is especially true when several failures have occurred. Reaching lofty goals is often not a straight line and many twists and turns can cause someone to become discouraged. This is the time that they need encouragement the most. They will see the leader as standing with them and not in judgment of them. The result is a willingness to work harder and take on more difficult tasks.
5) Insisting on not giving up: It can be very easy to want give up when reaching a roadblock in a project. There is almost always a solution to any problem but it requires sticking to the task of seeking a solution. It may require obtaining help or viewing the problem in different ways. It is important to provide encouragement and insist that giving up is not an option. It is through the successful achievements of tacking “impossible problems” that the team learns that they can make anything happen if they want to do so.
6) Letting them lead too: One of the hardest things for managers to do is give up control. Failure to do so will ensure never having members that can take over or run on their own. By letting the members lead from time to time, it becomes possible to sort out those that may need to be promoted or might even take over. Some large corporations often identify tasks to assign to team members so the board can assess those that may take over running the company should it be needed. Think of the latter case as a great way to create a succession plan!
The key is to be a leader that cares and works with the team members. Remember that both sides have knowledge and skills that may work in a synergistic manner to take the business to new levels or solve really difficult problems. Leaders know they must make use of all the talents and skills at their disposal to achieve greatness. They also know that they have the responsibility to teach others to be the leaders of tomorrow.
TAFFY WILLIAMS has been a successful entrepreneur and advisor to entrepreneurs for over 30 years. The founder and president of Colonial Technology Development Company, which assists start-ups in technology commercialization, he writes the popular “Startup Blog,” as well as articles for Examiner.com. He is the author of THINK AGILE: How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed.