How to Develop Great Leaders at All Levels

Great Leaders. . .

Great Leaders exist at all levels within organizations. Each of us are asked to be a leader in our lives. Whether it be at work, your community or your family, everyone is expected to lead at times regardless of role or title.

We believe that everyone wants to be supported by Great Leaders. Working with and learning from Great Leaders and peers you respect, unequivocally leads to higher job satisfaction, fulfillment, and makes work a more engaging and rewarding experience.
Great Leaders are superhuman. They inspire their team while transforming departments, business units, stores, districts, regions, divisions, and even entire companies. The myth goes that leaders are born. That is false.

So, the question becomes …

How do companies develop Great Leaders at all levels?

Company Culture

The first part of the solution starts with building a company culture that exemplifies the qualities and executes the best practices about to be laid forth.

The proceeding roadmap for companies to foster an engaging culture/work environment is supported by logic of world renowned author, Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek has authored best-selling leadership books such as “Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” “Leaders Eat Last” and “Together is Better.” Combine these works with his take on the Millennial generation and what you find is a well documented roadmap for ideal company culture.
A culture in which Millennials and other generations in the workforce (Baby Boomers, GenXers and soon Generation Z) can identify why it is important to them to be part of the company and to find “Purpose” in their work, all while developing professional skills and strengthening work and personal relationships.

A crucial early step in building culture is understanding what makes today’s largest segment of the workforce, the Millennial generation, “tick?” Collating Simon’s thoughts with studies on how to effectively recruit, align, inspire and retain high-performing Millennials and the roadmap begins to have a legend.

Millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers alike each want to feel that their contributions have an impact.Click To Tweet

Millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers alike each want to feel that their contributions have an impact. An impact on the Company’s performance. An impact on their peers development and performance. Perhaps most importantly, an impact on their community and society. Thus, aligning employees on how their role impacts the execution of your organization’s Vision, Mission, and accomplishment of Goals is essential. To do this, dig deep into why your company does what it does? This isn’t profit, profits are the result of delivering your why. In the early days of Google, it was to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” How powerful is that statement? How do you think employees felt as they were working with that “why” in mind? What is your company’s “why,” and how do you communicate it, so your employees buy-in?

Together with alignment and buy-in is listening to employees and soliciting their ideas on how to improve processes, create best practices, and innovate product/service offerings for customers. Simply stated, employees want a direct supervisor that is a mentor and listens to them and supports their individual needs. They also want a “seat at the table” and to know that their ideas are being heard and that they are contributing to the company’s performance. Ground-level workers will have a unique perspective on your product and service and may have the best feel for the pulse of your business and clientele. Many generations, with Millennials leading the charge; expect transparency from their supervisor and executive team. Especially regarding the financial performance/health of the company. Today’s generation wants to know they can trust not only their peers and direct supervisor, but the top-level leaders of the organization as well. Just as with personal relationships, professional relationships are doomed to fail without a foundation of trust.

Mentoring Programs

“Peer-level Mentoring”

Formal Mentoring Programs are a great starting point in building trust, creating a culture that features collaboration, and establishing an expectation that everyone is responsible for personal and co-worker development. All leading to a more supportive work environment. Mentoring Programs involve leveraging high-performing Talent/Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) as “Peer-level Mentors”™ in various functions of the business. When each employee has multiple “Peer-level Mentors”™ for distinct functions of the business, it helps foster relationship-building, and creates a team-oriented environment; two strong factors in impacting job satisfaction and employee retention. Another by-product benefit of “Peerlevel Mentoring”™ is it accelerates the development of employees learning to perform new job responsibilities or being cross-trained to develop bench strength, resulting in contributing to the company’s performance faster and in a broader way. Keep in mind, that “Peer-level Mentors”™ need to be trained on Teaching, Coaching, Motivating and Empowering employees before they begin mentoring. Through “Peer-level” Mentoring it enables companies to identify high-performing informal influential employees/mentors to consider developing for future ascension. This information can be gathered from those being mentored, while providing feedback on their development and performance or through regular (not just annual) Employee Surveys.

Traditional Mentoring

The second type of mentoring is more of the traditional approach which includes partnering high-potential employees with leaders one or two levels above their role. This practice helps the mentee better understand the organizational structure while learning how to develop relationships across and up and down the organization. Additionally, the mentored employee gains the added expertise shared by the mentor (whom should be a high-performing individual and be a strong candidate for future advancement), which strengthens your talent pipeline.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Why is all of this so important? Recognizing that there may be multiple factors leading to an employee’s decision to stay with a company (compensation rate, professional development, advancement opportunities, etc.), for many Millennials they choose to stay with a company because of the quality of relationships they have established with their peers. This is different from previous generations where the relationship with the direct supervisor was generally most important.
However, for Millennials, the relationship with the direct supervisor still remains very important. They count on the supervisor to be a coach/mentor and to be a resource of knowledge, while helping to remove obstacles that may impede the employee’s performance. Employees of all generations count on their direct supervisor to support them and assist in charting a path for future advancement within the company. As you can see, regardless of generation, it is imperative for companies to make the proper choices when promoting internally (ensuring employees are prepared to succeed at the next level) or hiring external supervisors, managers and leaders into the organization.

Millennials will stay for their peers, but why will they leave?

Historically, though it does vary by individual circumstance, the most common reason for people choosing to leave a company, no matter their generation is the result of a poor relationship with their direct supervisor. In fact, in Gallup’s research they have found that 50% of surveyed workers had left at least one position as a result of wanting to get away from a bad boss. In other words, poor supervisors have a direct correlation to reduced employee engagement, high employee turnover and generally less discretionary effort and performance by direct reports.

Whereas, having a Great Leader as a direct supervisor leads to higher employee engagement, lower voluntary turnover, more job satisfaction and fulfillment, as well as, higher levels of retention and sustained performance. The people placed into leadership roles can raise your company’s performance, or ruin it. So, choose carefully!

For Millennials, the next reason they often choose to leave an employer is they do not feel they are progressing professionally in their careers (In their knowledge, skills, and/or position level). Therefore, Mentoring Programs are vital. They not only build relationships, but help develop important job knowledge and skills.

When employees become “Peer-level Mentors”™ they are given opportunity to sharpen their own leadership, training and communications skills; important competencies needed for the next position level, whatever level that may be.
“Peer-level Mentors”™ can see and measure their contributions to the success of their peers and company.

This keeps high-performing employees engaged and retained because they feel and know that they are progressing professionally by improving and expanding their skillssets, while awaiting potential advancement in responsibilities and title.

When employees become “Peer-level Mentors”™ they have the opportunity to develop their own skills.Click To Tweet

The best cultures feature a high rate of internal promotions through an internal pipeline of well-prepared leaders ready to ascend within the organization. Versus the far too often used and incorrect strategy of promoting top-performing individual contributors into a leadership role (supervisor/manager/multi-unit manager, etc.) without preparing them for success with the necessary competencies ahead of her/his promotion.

The optimum culture is one that . . .

  1. Aligns employees with the company’s Purpose / Vision / Mission / Goals
  2. Fosters a team-oriented, supportive, and collaborative environment
  3. Provides continuous learning opportunities to develop professional skills (Mentoring Programs)
  4. Reinforces personal and team accountability
  5. Encourages and welcomes innovative ideas
  6. Listens and provides frequent feedback
  7. Identifies and develops Leaders at all levels within the organization

Contact Us

Connect with us at Engage Factors and we can help your company source, identify, and develop Great Leaders at all levels, while helping transform your company’s culture into one which attracts and retains Great Leaders and employees from all generations!

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