Robert was a senior leader in a technical department of a large company, and a new client of mine. He was new to his role. His team was seated around a table where I was facilitating a conversation for them to provide some early feedback on Robert’s leadership. The team did a fine job of providing balanced responses – both affirming and critical. I had a strong sense of their great appreciation and trust in Robert’s ability to lead them.
At the end of the session, I asked Robert’s team a wrap-up question: “What else should Robert know?”.
Some silence followed, and then someone said, “I would work for him again”. Heads around the table nodded in agreement.
I thought about how lucky they were to have Robert as their boss. He’s naturally smart and knows his area of expertise, but that wasn’t enough for his team to want to work for him again. There was so much more than that about him that made him a really, really good leader in their eyes.
Would your team want to work for you again? They will if, like Robert, you:
Include them in the strategy, vision, and transitions of the organization you lead. Your leaders want to be engaged in designing the future every bit as much as you do. Communicate the broad view of the company beyond the specific areas you manage so that they can put the fine work they do into perspective with the bigger picture you create together.
Respect them by listening to their ideas and supporting them in implementing them, even when they are risky. The wonderfully smart people who work for you deserve to have their creativity acknowledged and heard with your open mind and heart. After all, they are closer to the daily activities that are the engine of the organization, and they’re listening to their employees for ideas that just might work.
Develop them by putting them into jobs that stretch them and help them to grow. Give them learning opportunities outside of their specific responsibilities to develop and learn too. Cross-functional team leadership, special projects, and even a class or a coach to help them to go beyond their knowledge base and learn how to lead others will get them ready for whatever is next.
Give them autonomy and allow them to do the work they’re best at without your interfering. Sure, sometimes you need to guide them, but they know what they’re doing. You’ve trained, developed and communicated the critical information they need to do their jobs well, so let them. If they fail, help them to learn from their mistakes.
The kind of healthy loyalty that will develop with you and your team when you do these things can’t be understated. Push them out of the nest when necessary to go on to other things, but in the meantime, enjoy the engagement they feel. If they would work for you again, you know you’re on the right track.