How to bring out the best in those you lead, and those around you

Gwyneth Roberts/The Journal-Star via AP From left, Mandela Washington Fellow Amina Sanoussi, from Niger, shares a laugh with mentor Randy Bretz, of Lincoln, Neb., and fellow Margaret Nongo-Okojokwu, from Nigeria. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is hosting 25 fellows this summer for a program that exposes emerging leaders from across Sub-Saharan Africa to aspects of leadership in the United States.

Good leaders discover what they are good at. Great leaders discover what others are good at.

 

The best leaders I worked for were genuinely interested in my success. They invested time helping me discover my best talents and abilities, and of course, where I needed help. They led by example – an example I try to emulate even today.

I often get asked about my recommendations on to how to discover what others are good at. I thought I would share some of the successful techniques I have learned over the years, for they may be of value to you in your life as a leader.

 

Understanding and believing in yourself: The ability to influence others begins with the establishment of a trusted relationship between a credible leader and follower. Without trust, no influence will occur.

Credible leaders need to have a realistic understanding of who they are in order to avoid becoming ineffective, arrogant, or irrelevant. This understanding includes knowing what you stand for, your values and strengths.

You must also believe in yourself, believe that you can have an impact in this world. You need to believe that you can inspire others to achieve new goals they never thought possible. The question is not if you will make a difference – but what difference you will make.

Through self-development you build confidence and faith in your own abilities.

 

Ways to discover the best in others:

Find them doing something right. The power of positive reinforcement for outstanding achievement is remarkable.

Private or public recognition for outstanding accomplishments can ignite a new passion for professional growth. Simple words like “thank you” can make a real difference. Your inspired support can give people increased self-confidence in their talents and abilities. This excitement is especially true when they took initiative and accepted risk in their decisions.

Assess performance. Keen observation of performance may seem obvious to most folks. Witnessing the level of proficiency in skills needed to accomplish a certain task is where you start.

However, it is also important to search for the passion for, the genuine interest in the given task. In addition, there are benefits in assessing the transferable skills that could lead to other areas in the organization where a greater contribution can be made.

Set goals and help achieve. Goal setting between the supervisor and team member remains a fundamental skill of great leadership. Once goals are agreed upon, the leader’s role transitions to providing the guidance and resources necessary to meet the needs of the team member to ensure success.

And when goals are achieved – celebrate! Then set new goals. I remember how appreciated I felt when my supervisor provided me with guidance to help me be successful. I had great experiences of supervisor support as a young lieutenant fresh out of the military academy all the way to being a general officer.

Ask – and listen. Great questions: What do you really enjoy doing? What do you think you are good at? What do you spend your off-duty time on?

Listen to what is said and how it is said. These questions will likely generate some engaging dialog that will lead to learning. Once areas of genuine interest are identified, provide opportunities for them to grow that fit. Consider also investing in formal assessment tools used by millions of people every year that provide unique insights into individual talents and preferences.

Discuss career goals. Career counseling is another obvious, but often overlooked, task of leaders. Discovering where people want to be three to five years from now is an important discussion to have, as well as long-term career goals.

An honest discussion about potential is key as well, as most people want to know what might be in their future. I was fortunate in my military career that the potential discussion occurred at least annually, as the army performance appraisal system required it.

Create a safe working environment. Create a positive leadership climate where honest mistakes in the pursuit of excellence are okay. Give people room to grow, freedom to take initiative, freedom to learn from mistakes.

Innovation and creativity can be powerful enhancers to business success. Underwriting the mistakes can build trust and confidence in people and their abilities.

 

These ideas are some ways I have learned over the years to help bring out the gifts people have. I always got great joy when able to help people grow and placing them in positions where they can flourish.

A word of caution, however; your positive attitude might be contagious! You might create an environment where all people across the organization might really enjoy their work and want to stay!

I wish you the best in your leadership journey!

 

The writer is an executive coach, consultant and author. His email address is jwfoley@loralmountain.com. His website is loralmountain.com.

 

More