As leaders, most of us would like to imagine that we have all the answers. But we’re constantly faced with new and disruptive challenges that we have no idea how to solve.
As we turn to our teams to help us develop innovative solutions, there’s nothing more disappointing than seeing them come back to you with mediocre ideas and lackluster execution.
It’s not that your team is wrong. It’s just that they are stuck in the loop of status quo. So, as a leader, you crave new talent with new ideas to drive your team forward. The good news is that the problem may not be that your team doesn’t have the ability to step up to the shifting challenges and expectations of leadership. Instead, you may just need to find a new way to unleash the leadership promise they already have. This means bringing the untapped potential of individuals and teams to the surface, activating it and accelerating development through opportunities and exposure.
Here are some of the ways you might be overlooking potential on your team:
1. Stop looking at potential as black and white. Labeling people as either having or not having potential doesn’t do anything to help anyone. Everyone has the ability to lead to varying levels, which means it can be developed in your entire team. While not everyone may be destined for the C-suite, most people have the capability to lead specific projects or expand their role in some way. Everyone needs to start their leadership journey somewhere, whether they’re obviously oozing with leadership ability or not. Take stock of your entire team and figure out what you’re actually working with, not on labeling people.
2. Get more people involved. It’s easy to rely on your highest performers to take on your toughest challenges, trusting that they’ll get the job done. But there are two problems with that strategy. The first is that your high-potential leaders may get burned out. Secondly, even the most talented people aren’t equipped to deal with every problem. Involving more people on the project can help you identify and activate potential across the team to produce better and more innovative results.
3. Value informal leadership. Some people on your team may have no desire to rise to the ranks of formal leadership, but they’re influential members of the group who can steer the department with their opinions and actions. Seek out these informal leaders and offer them the opportunity to develop their skills further.
4. Look for leaders who don’t look like you. Are you subconsciously only looking for leaders who lead like you, who share your work philosophies and have a lot of the same thoughts about leadership? Look at the leaders you’ve put on your team and who you’ve surrounded yourself with. What are the similarities? Make an effort to look for those who have differing opinions and different work habits than you do. Bringing diversity to your team is one of the greatest services you can do for your group. Innovation is halted in an echo chamber.
5. Boost the voices of the quieter people. Just because someone sounds like a leader, it doesn’t mean that they actually are a leader. Don’t overlook the quiet folks on your team, the introverts who prefer thinking before speaking. Further, there will be those who jump on every leadership opportunity they see. Those are also loud voices. While they may be adept at leading, focusing solely on these people will cause you to overlook those who have a lot of potential but may need a nudge to get involved in leadership.
If you want to unleash the potential of your team, you must look at the big picture. Help your people shake free of the status quo loop. Change things up and begin to look at your team’s leadership potential in new ways and with fresh eyes. Once you give them the confidence to step up to new challenges and embrace their leadership potential — no matter the level they have — they will surprise you, and the results will likely exceed what you thought was possible!
By Tacy Byham
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