One of the key tasks for a leader at any level is to develop individuals in their team. Some leadership skills are shared by osmosis while others require a more deliberate approach to have a lasting effect on our team members.
During a recent coaching session with a Construction Superintendent, he identified that he was trying to develop each team member's ability to chair the weekly meeting. His goal for them was to develop meeting facilitation and communication skills, and encourage them to engage with other stakeholders in preparation for the meeting. Each team member took turns chairing the meeting, however he was disappointed as the meetings were not only inefficient due to poor facilitation, the team had become disengaged and demotivated. In this case the issue was clear. The team didn’t know that their leader was attempting to develop them in this area and it was their perception that this task was ‘being handballed’ to them in order to reduce his own workload.
This issue is not unique to the office environment. I have observed similar results in other industries where leaders are well intentioned and motivated to develop their team, however they can’t shift the needle of individual and team performance.
What can be done to address the issue?
Set conditions for development – A major contributing factor to poor team development is that they don’t know they are being developed. Many leadership skills are picked up over time from leaders, peers and subordinates, but some require a deliberate approach. We must be clear about what the expectations are, what good looks like, what great looks like, and what is the pathway to get there.
Demonstrate what great looks like– Conduct an honest self-assessment about your own performance and ensure that the shadow that you cast is a positive one. If your goal is develop a Mining Supervisor’s ability to deliver an effective Pre-Start meeting to the crew, take opportunities such as the monthly tool-box talk to demonstrate how to prepare and deliver a presentation effectively. Involve your Supervisors in your planning process and presentation development and encourage them to give you feedback on your performance.
Give timely performance feedback– The learning loop must be closed or the opportunity will be lost. Receiving feedback is skill that has to be developed just as much as delivering it and if done regularly, team members become more receptive and the chance of skill improvement increases. Regular feedback that identifies 1-2 areas for development as well as 1-2 areas of positive feedback is far better than irregular feedback.
The ability to remove friction, reduce the chance of failure, and manage people in transition (as discussed in Building Shift Tempo) is significantly increased if the team is constantly looking to develop and close gaps in knowledge and skill. A deliberate approach to leader development within your team will create the environment where feedback becomes habit and mediocrity is defeated.
Recommended Reading - The Mission, the Men, and Me by Peter Blaber The guiding principle 'It's not reality unless it's shared' was the inspiration for this piece.