Your company is growing fast, you know you should be developing your future leaders but you don’t have a $5 million development budget to send your star employees on that fancy leadership course.
Leadership development experts Morgan McCall and David Day found that 70 percent of development comes from challenging experiences like turning around a business, implementing a new process, handling a difficult customer or stepping into a new role, 20 percent comes from managerial support and only 10 percent comes from training courses and structured learning.
The good news about being in a small and nimble fast-paced environment is that there are lots of challenging learning opportunities. Experience is a terrific asset for development but you need to leverage it consciously and deliberately so that it supports your growth plans. Decide on a core set of capabilities that your company needs to grow and look at how you can develop these in your people.
The first thing you need do is to adopt an abundance mindset — start thinking about developing anyone, anytime, anywhere. Don’t just focus on the one or two superstars but think about developing a critical mass of people — you will need them as your company grows.
1. Empower people.
Dan Neary, who heads Facebook for the Asia Pacific region says “I focus on doing my job and I let my team do theirs.” In spite of fast pace of growth, his people are empowered to make decisions. Dan is giving his people one of the best resources for them to develop: decision-making authority and responsibility.
He doesn’t make the decisions for them and he doesn’t’ micromanage them to make the “right” decision. Dan typically shows up to a meeting he has scheduled along with one of his team. In the meeting, Dan delegates. He gives clear instruction and really hands over to the person in the meeting without delay.
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Even if they are crazy busy, most leaders find it really hard to delegate and tend to keep too much on their plates — but this is a big mistake if your want to scale your business and scale your talent. Review the work you need to do over the next one to three months.
Then identify work that presents a challenge that could serve as a trigger for someone else’s development. For example, are you presenting to a new important client. Or do you have an important engagement with a business partner.
Delegating this work can liberate some of your time to spend on broader challenges. Keep in mind that you’ll need to plow back some of that time to coach and support the person to whom you delegate the work. I’ve seen this routine work with peers as well when a team is working together to reallocate workloads.
3. Make the most of meetings.
Don’t have time to develop people because you are always at meetings? Use them to develop your people. Bring a team member to important your meetings with customers, leads, investors and other stakeholders. The employee will get to see the bigger picture and also how you operate.
Make sure the employee is clear on the purpose of the meeting and how you expect them to contribute. After the meeting, do a quick 5 minute debrief on what they learned and how effectively they executed their role in the meeting.
4. Pause after projects.
Look at every project as a learning opportunity. Assign employees to projects where you think they can develop the capabilities that you need in your business. Be clear about their role in the project and that you expect them to develop these capabilities while working on the project so they can consciously develop them.
Pause at the end of each project and debrief — what went well, what could have gone better. How did did they perform and how do they think they can apply what they learnt.
By using experience to drive your team’s development, you can get your talent truly supporting and driving your business growth.