How to Develop Employees’ Leadership Strengths

Sep 5, 2019 | Professional Development

Have some of your direct reports expressed interest in taking on more leadership responsibilities? Or do you see a huge amount of potential in certain individuals, but know they need some guidance to fully grow their capabilities?

To step into their full potential, employees need coaching on how to communicate like a leader, develop solutions to problems, support others’ growth, and empower their teammates. 

Here are five ways to start helping your employees build their leadership strengths today. 

Teach them to be coaches.

Coach your people to be great coaches for others. Model strong coaching skills by reminding people of the importance of their work. Praise them often for a job well done. When assigning them the responsibility to lead others, talk with them on how to keep their team members motivated and enthusiastic.

Leaders must get to know their team well in order to coach them effectively. They need to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and what motivates them. Encourage them to talk one-on-one with each member of their team in order to better understand their abilities and areas where they’re working to grow.

You could also pair up-and-coming leaders with current ones who can provide invaluable advice and mentorship. As part of your leadership development plan, the Society for Human Resource Management also suggests establishing groups of aspiring leaders from different departments who can all learn together, give each other feedback, and work through challenges as a group. By pairing them with other coaches, they’ll develop a broader repertoire of mentoring skills.

Push them outside of their comfort zone.

Your employees will only grow their potential when they step into unfamiliar territory. They need to learn to navigate challenging new circumstances with grace and composure. No leader can prepare for every situation imaginable–instead, they need to cultivate the belief in their own abilities that will see them through the most difficult situations. Remind them to ask for support and resources when needed, rather than trying to do everything on their own.

Encourage employees to take initiative when they see opportunities to solve persistent problems or explore a new strategy. They’ll truly demonstrate their leadership when they actively stretch their abilities in these ways.

Maintain a strong feedback loop.

Give each member of your team feedback about their performance in a positive, supportive manner at least several times a week. Consistent feedback will help them gage their progress and clarify any areas of confusion as quickly as possible. They’ll also see you as more approachable when you reach out frequently to check in about their performance, meaning they’ll be more likely to ask questions when necessary. In turn, they’ll learn how to give constructive feedback to their own team! Meet with each of your employees on a quarterly basis for a more in-depth discussion of their progress in achieving their goals and objectives, too. 

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Help them learn to guide others in setting goals. 

As your employees begin to manage others, guide them in helping their direct reports to set goals. Talk with new leaders about how to help the employees they’re managing to set professional development goals that will further your company’s mission and vision. Each person’s goal should connect to the broader vision and mission of the organization, and they should understand those connections thoroughly. Remind aspiring leaders to talk with their direct reports about the purpose of their work–how it contributes to the broader mission of the organization. 

Talk one-on-one with employees to make sure they can accurately express the company’s vision to their team. When they have a strong grasp of the vision, they’ll be well-equipped to help their teammates understand it and keep it at the forefront of their work.

Provide learning opportunities.

Offer professional development opportunities that enrich your employees’ knowledge about leadership. Cover their costs for attending a conference in your field, or suggest local educational resources that they can benefit from. You might consider bringing in an outside expert to conduct a workshop on leadership skills at your workplace, bringing a fresh perspective. Keep a library of books on leadership in the break room and make reading recommendations based on the skills people are working to develop. 

If employees wish to pursue an advanced degree, such as an MBA, consider investing in their education by covering some or all of the costs of their program. You’ll be truly showing how much you value them as an employee and believe in them as a leader.

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Monitor employees’ progress closely as they stretch their skill sets in all of these ways. Remember, Millennials and Gen Z’ers love continued encouragement and constructive criticism that’s framed in a positive light. They thrive on mentoring and coaching, which shows them that you’re invested in their growth. You’ll see them flourish as you give them practical tips on strengthening their skills and updates on their progress.

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