As a small business owner you are forced to wear many hats, particularly as things begin to take shape and your company begins to grow. Having people on staff who can step up and help in larger roles will become a necessity. Bringing leaders in from outside the company can be expensive, time consuming and risky. Developing leaders from within is far preferable. But it doesn’t just happen. You need to be deliberate about it. You need to make leadership development a part of your business strategy. A leadership plan should cover all levels and show when an employee is ready to move to a higher position.There are many ways to go about it. Following are 11 strategies to help develop home-grown leaders at your office:
- Learn to recognize potential
Identify emerging leaders who can step in and fill critical roles when necessary. Push people out of their comfort zone. Difficult or unusual situations are excellent for testing whether someone is leadership material.Look beyond job-related skills to behaviour and attitudes. Learn about their interests, goals and values.
- Develop leaders early
Leadership development should take place as soon as possible within your organization. It’s not an instantaneous shift—so it’s important to start now. Watch your staff as they work. Find and analyze the strengths of potential future leaders. Discover which employees have what it takes for certain jobs by letting them identify themselves as potential leaders in leadership positions.
- Get buy-in for your vision
It’s your role to set and communicate a strategic direction for the business. Discuss your vision and ask for your team’s help in shaping it.This gives employees a shared sense of mission and encourages potential leaders to see a future for themselves in the business.
- Support through coaching
Coaching is a form of development usually based on one-on-one discussions, providing guidance and advice for specific challenges. Use coaching discussions to help your emerging leaders address their fears and weaknesses, and to prepare them for more advanced tasks.
- Create an ownership mentality
You can coach people in leadership day after day—but they won’t actually use those skills unless they feel like a trusted, valued, and impactful part of the company. Trust your employees and give them the authority to make certain decisions.To really develop interest in how the company is doing, consider incentives such as profit sharing and stock options. Tangible rewards keep you inspired to lead the small business to new heights; a direct stake in the outcome can be the motivation your emerging leaders need to do the same.
- Reward people and performance
People need to be accountable for their performance, including getting credit for a job well done. Put in place an appraisal and incentive system that fairly evaluates performance and rewards excellence.
- Challenge employees
Give employees a chance to challenge themselves by assigning them new or unfamiliar tasks. It’s an effective way to push and test their skill levels, and expand their comfort zone. As The Wall Street Journal notes, it’s all right if they fail since it “offers valuable lessons that can add new skills, improve confidence, and solidify employee commitment.”Watch to see if the employee just determines the task is above their skill level or if your employee determines that they will do what it takes to learn the new skill.
- Provide education and training
If you’ve got the bucks, another way to develop future leaders is by constantly providing them with the education and training needed to become a leader. This could be accomplished by having employees attend webinars, conferences or classes to help them refine their leadership skills.
- Teach employees how to network
Networking is vitally important for everyone in a leadership position. It is a key skill for leaders at any level—so it’s important to teach your employees how to effectively network as soon as possible. You can start small, within your own company, even: When there are company events (e.g., potlucks, sponsored meals, or after-work events), encourage your leaders-in-training to go—and more importantly, to branch out beyond conversations with the co-workers they already know. Then, as they grow more comfortable, you can include them in community- and industry-wide events—and eventually, even send them in your place to represent your company. When they progress into leadership roles, they’ll already have valuable contacts, plus the people skills needed to succeed.
- Allow them to struggle a bit
When an employee needs help with a task, they typically come to a manager, so that manager can either take over or provide the resource that will help accomplish the task. And in most cases, fulfilling that managerial duty is perfectly fine. But when you’re coaching your employees to become leaders,it can be beneficial to push them to figure out how to get what they need—on their own. For example, if an employee needs help with a financial spreadsheet, stop yourself from finishing it yourself and instead, introduce your employee to the head of the finance department and let them take it from there.
- Rotate employee positions
For many innovative companies, employee rotation has become a great way to engage, motivate and work with different team members. Furthermore, by not locking employees into a single position, it’s developing additional skills in each employee that could be used if they have to fill-in for another team member.
It’s about passion. The best leaders inspire others to become leaders with their passion. Employees will take a little bit of that passion and it will grow within them. Develop passion in your employees and they will become the best leaders and biggest factors in the success of your business.