Turning Today's Employees into Tomorrow's Leaders

Turning Today's Employees into Tomorrow's Leaders

One of the biggest challenges of business ownership is attracting good talent - but retaining them is even harder. As a business owner, you look at your strong employees as future leaders. With changing demographics in the workplace creating generational diversity, how do you turn your current and future employees into leaders?

There are consistent core areas of leadership development necessary to turn employees into leaders, regardless of age and generational differences. Communication, commitment, recognition, and growth are requirements for helping your people to become leaders.

Communication: It is a skill that the potential future leader must have, but also an act of leadership that they expect from you. Opening the lines of communication and allowing your employees access to information not only keeps them informed, but also gives them the feeling of involvement.

Commitment: A sense of commitment goes both ways, just like communication. The employee is committed to you and your business, but they need to know that you are also committed to them. More than the paycheck and benefits, your employees need to know that you see a future for them in your business.

Recognition: Recognizing team members is often underutilized, but it is one of the most powerful weapons in helping turn employees into leaders. Acknowledging the employees' hard work, dedication, commitment, or simply the successful completion of a project, goes a very long way in building their loyalty to your company. In turn, your recognition shows them that you are paying attention and value their contribution to the team.

Growth: Providing career growth is a tricky area for many business owners. You know you want the employee to be a leader, but the company may not be growing as quickly as you (or the employee) would like, or perhaps the opportunity for the next role for that person has not identified itself. Here is one area where good employees end up leaving, as they do not see a "next step" for themselves. By following the previous three rules of communication, commitment, and recognition, your employee knows exactly where they stand and what your long-term plans for them are within the company. In addition, you may find that you are able to redevelop their current role to provide increased responsibility and learning opportunities, without a change in title or salary, until the company has grown enough to accommodate a formal promotion.

Ok, so now you have the basics. That should be enough, right? Unfortunately, it is not so. Think of it this way: when a team goes through the drafting process, there is a young and eager star athlete wanting to play and there is a team hungry to recruit them, and although they have never played professionally, there are high expectations for their performance. The athlete does very well and before you know it they are looking for what their "next step" is. They could be looking to move elsewhere, may feel entitled to more, or another team may be courting them. There are truly a variety of reasons, and it takes the coach working with team management to develop the playbook to keep this star.

This is the same for you in your business. You have hired your future stars and you have to develop your playbook for keeping them. Just like athletes, employees need access to learning and growth opportunities, and encouragement to give back in order to continue to be great. Therefore, you and your managers need to teach, mentor, and coach them to:

  • Build rapport with co-workers, networks, and other leaders in the business.
  • Increase self-awareness to curate their professional image.
  • Develop flexibility and patience so they understand that hard work and dedication will achieve long term results beyond instant gratification.
  • Inspire others to want to lead by example.
  • Delegate and share in the workload.
  • Educate themselves and those around them, and build confidence that sharing knowledge is not giving up power.
  • Understand varying management styles and how to navigate them, including their own.
  • Engage in ongoing self-assessments in order to continue to learn and develop.
  • Integrate with current management and family employees through mutual respect and willingness to learn.
  • Mentor another future leader, as well as be mentored by a current one, which may include gathering perspectives from current managers or family members.

Generational diversity has created a conundrum for many business owners. Motivators and rewards are drastically different today than they used to be. Added to the complexity is the fact that as a business owner, your beliefs or motivating factors may differ greatly than those of your employees and future leaders. In the end, people must buy into their leader before they buy into the leader's vision. They must believe that they are empowered to be great, encouraged to grow, enabled to live and work with balance, and that you are excited to have them on board. If you find the right balance, you will develop employees to be your best future leaders.

Jeff Bannon is an associate of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm For additional information email info@rawlsgroup.com or visit www.rawlsgroup.com


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