The pressure to attract, keep, and inspire talent today is no joke. We hear every week about team leaders that are struggling with talent acquisition and retention and hear many of the same complaints over and over:

  • “Our salary ranges are not keeping up with competing offers or employee expectations.”
  • “Our team is small/fixed and we can’t offer promotions to everyone. Good people are leaving because they can find a better role/title somewhere else.”
  • “Our business is not as sexy as other companies. People are looking for something more exciting than our industry offers.”

While these statements and complaints are based in truth, the reality is that they can be easy scapegoat answers. Corporate Path Leadership encourages leaders to challenge themselves in new ways this year to find and keep talent – by taking the time to focus on what you can personally do to offer your team members challenging opportunities in an inspiring team environment. And yes – this is something that you can control!

Our own inspiration for this topic comes from a recent Strategy + Business article on finding a second in command. The premise links the great polar expedition successes to leaders performing well when they attacked their challenges as a team, set clear goals and had a secondary leader to help ensure success. The article reminded us that strong leaders know how to assign challenging opportunities to team members to help them shine, and in turn build a stronger team. And along the way, these opportunities give the leader a chance to see their team members in action, identify who is a good fit for certain tasks and initiatives, and who might be a good future leader and successor.

The article focused on leaders, and having a second in command. However, we think it’s possible to think of this as a way to provide growth opportunities for all team members that go beyond just a promotion, title change, or a raise. Rewarding and engaging star performers with leadership mentoring, or even just stimulating team members who like to be more behind the scenes with an important initiative, can also be highly rewarding and engaging ways to build retention.

So what are possible steps for setting up this structure in your team today?

STEP ONE: Identify key initiatives that the team needs to accomplish in the next 6-12 months.

For each of these initiatives, think deeply about the role that you as the leader has to play, vs. roles that someone on your team could play as an interim leader. This doesn’t mean handing off the initiative to someone entirely – but finding key components that will help demonstrate knowledge and leadership and doesn’t need your full ownership.

TIP: The key to success is to stretch here – let your team members take on just a bit more responsibility than you might be initially comfortable with. That said, it should be a safe learning experience for everyone.

STEP TWO: Determine team members that would be a good fit to assume those temporary leadership roles.

Not everyone is up to the task. In your day-to-day work with the team, you should know of team members that might be best suited for specific leadership opportunities.

TIP: The key here is to stretch your comfort zone a bit to think of all team members and options for each of them throughout the year to stretch their capabilities. You might be surprised at some of the “sleeper” capabilities within your team that you didn’t know existed and wouldn’t discover without testing them.

STEP THREE: Meet with your designated team members

When you meet, establish the leadership opportunity within the initiative, set expectations for their involvement (and yours) and position the initiative as an opportunity for career development. This is critical and cannot be done with a simple email. Plan on at least 1-2 detailed meetings where you can talk through the opportunity, clarify exactly what you are looking for, clarify how you will be involved.

TIP: Allow ample time for team members to ask questions and confirm their role – and set an overall timeline for their leadership of the initiative. As a reminder from the article, success came from goals being clearly defined, and understood by all.

STEP FOUR: Establish routine check-ins

Set up a frequency of follow-up sessions for the team members to report back to you with progress on the initiative to date, and questions/issues that they are facing. Remember, you may need to be patient in these first couple of check in calls when progress isn’t as quick as you would like.

TIP: Don’t try to take over and wrestle responsibility away from your team members. Push them where needed to improve and/or move faster but let them stay in control. (This will be hard at first!)

STEP FIVE: Provide a “showcase” opportunity to present the work

The final test for your team members taking on leadership responsibilities should be to give them a place to demonstrate their hard work. The easy answer might be to give them time in a usual team meeting, but we emphasize the importance of thinking bigger. (Go beyond just your own team.) Instead, provide a “showcase” opportunity for the team member to present their work to an expanded audience with other cross-functional teams and leadership.

TIP: Going beyond a presentation to the team will help the team member show their expertise and talent to other members of the organization who might not be aware of their skillset. This not only helps build confidence and leadership skills, but can also build relationships with other teams, and provide more opportunities for future, rewarding work for them.

STEP SIX: Evaluate what you have learned.

At the end of the process, you should recognize those team members that are best suited for additional leadership responsibilities and assignments, and those that are most comfortable in a traditional individual contributor role. At the end of the day, having your team help achieve common goals will help you look good, while giving them an opportunity to look good too. However, giving them interesting and challenging work will also help keep them invested and engaged.

This is also a great way to test out future leaders – some may surprise you! When it comes to your own succession planning, this knowledge of skillsets will help to set up your own successor should you leave the team for any reason.

TIP: Remember that not all team members will succeed with this opportunity. And that is OK!!

STEP SEVEN: Consider bringing on an external consultant to help with the management and mentoring of this process.

If you find that you don’t have the time to spend on all of the details of these steps, consider bringing in a consultant that can help you with a formal design and execution. At Corporate Path Leadership, we have helped many leaders think through how best to implement their programs and keep the team members on track.

Contact Us Today

We make it easy to jump start success. Simply contact us and share your current team challenge or need, and we’ll respond with program ideas to innovate your team performance.

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