Leaders at Every Level: How to Turn Your Everyday Employees into Corporate Leaders
Today’s employees are increasingly concerned with job growth and advancement. Millennials, especially, are more likely to seek out positions in organizations that encourage them to grow and develop in their careers, and companies have caught on to the benefits of promoting leadership skills among all employees. These benefits include:
- Creating a team of employees who are capable and informed as decision-makers
- Allowing employees to act as resources for one another
- Paving the way for every employee to advance in his or her career
- Ensuring that the organization can promote from within when a management-level job opens
Of course, organizations that foster growth and advancement do so with deliberate action. Here are a few ways your organization can develop and support the next generation of leaders.
1. Establish mentoring relationships between employees.
Mentoring is an excellent way for employees to engage and support one another, with numerous benefits for the mentor, the mentee, and the organization as a whole. A good mentor can help eager employees increase their productivity and advance in the workplace. The benefits of mentoring relationships include:
- Mentees learning and absorbing knowledge from a skilled professional.
- Mentees making fewer mistakes and having a resource to help them if they get stuck on the job.
- Mentors improving their teaching skills and increasing the confidence they have in their own performance.
- Lower employee turnover and higher attraction for job seekers.
In summary, a solid mentoring program fosters leadership at all levels and helps participating employees to grow and develop in their roles.
2. Treat employees as owners.
There are a variety of ways to create a sense of ownership among your employees. Some key contributors include:
- Transparency: Employees should feel like they have a solid understanding of their roles, how their roles fit into the organization’s larger goals, and where the organization is headed. Employees who have a sense of ownership feel as though information flows freely in the workplace.
- Value: Employees understand how their contributions benefit the organization and its customers. They feel respected, recognized, and appreciated for their work.
- Accountability: Not only are employees accountable for their own work, but they also see leaders being held accountable for theirs. In an organization that fosters a sense of ownership among employees, accountability flows in both directions.
- Objectives: Goals and objectives are part of a larger conversation that involves all employees. Instead of being treated as directives, organizational objectives are decided with the input and agreement of the employees.
Once your employees feel like they own their performance and a piece of the organization at large, they tend to be more engaged and more comfortable taking the lead at work.
3. Encourage networking at all levels of the organization.
Often, networking is seen as something leaders do to advance their careers and maintain relationships within and outside of their organizations. However, like mentoring, networking provides an excellent way for employees to connect with one another and take on leadership qualities at all levels.
Companies that want to foster internal networking can set up events like happy hours, breakfasts, lunch-and-learns, and other open-ended opportunities for leaders, managers, and team members to get together and share ideas or even learn together. Employees who are eager to advance in their careers will welcome the chance to develop relationships with upper level managers and organizational leaders.
4. Find opportunities to offer employees new experiences.
For many employees, work is repetitive and hours are limited. That can make it challenging to pick up new skills or get on-the-job training in leadership in order to advance in one’s career. Organizations that emphasize the importance of leadership training at every level can seek out specific opportunities to offer new experiences and challenges to employees who want to develop their skills. Some example ideas that will help foster leadership skills and offer new opportunities include:
- Coordinating workshops and trainings that employees can attend to learn about new opportunities or develop leadership skills.
- Allowing employees to make suggestions and recommendations about their roles and the best ways to perform their tasks.
- Encouraging employees to attend trade shows, conferences, and other events.
- Creating a committee for charitable giving that allows employees to take on different management roles and drive an initiative forward.
- Giving new assignments and challenges to employees that are thriving in their roles.
5. Allow employees to seek solutions instead of offering immediate answers.
When time is of the essence, it’s easy for leaders to answer employee questions and return to their work. Micromanaging is known to be inefficient, but it can also be easier than letting go for leaders who struggle with control issues. However, organizations that want their employees to develop leadership skills should make sure that they give those employees ample time and authority to figure out their own solutions when challenges arise.
Remember, employees are in the trenches doing their jobs on a daily basis. They’re intimately familiar with their work, and supporting them as they make decisions and address challenges is an important way for leaders to develop an empowered workforce.
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