Dear Fearless Leader,
Think about how you got to the top. Did you do it alone? Didn’t think so. Most of us have a parade of people to whom we credit our success.
This is why you need to prioritize creating connections for your team; leaders are capable of making amazing things possible, but they seldom do so alone. Connectivity is key to increasing productivity and potential.
According to this Deloitte University Press report, “only 13 percent of [business leaders] say they do an excellent job developing leaders at all levels.” The result is that companies growth is slowed because their people aren’t equipped to lead effectively. One of the keys to truly exceptional leadership is understanding how to leverage your community for insight, but only a select few founders are actively cultivating and connecting their teams with support. Most likely, you’re not doing enough to bridge your key players with resources outside your company.
Here are three simple ways you can connect your people to propel them forward:
1. Introduce them to your friends.
You don’t have to have your team over for poker or host a scrapbooking party. But the bottom line is, mentors, sponsors and coaches help you problem solve. Remember how many people you leaned on when you were just starting to build your career? You combed your alumni network, friends’ parents, and other coffee shop squatters for anyone who was willing to listen and offer advice.
Your team needs these people too. They are tackling challenges that have never been tackled to help your company grow, and need as wide a perspective as possible to move the needle.
How to do this: Introduce them to your inner circle, either in person or over email, whichever you can make happen sooner. Invite members of your team to join you for meetings. Or, for all those event invitations you receive, actually respond and ask if you can send a member of your team instead.
How not to do this: Tell them to talk to your friend, Fred, and then never introduce them to Fred. Building new relationships is awkward. Don’t make them go it alone.
2. Give them a (social) allowance to meet peers.
Help your team expand their peer network, so they have access to support when they need it even if it means paying for it. Encouraging people to spend time and money out of the office might sound crazy at first, but gaining insight beyond their core bubble of coworkers is critical to shaping your team’s growth. Don’t worry, you’ll get your ROI. They’ll develop a valuable new perspective through exposure to what’s working for other companies and teams.
How to do this: Give teams a budget and the kick in the pants to host (or attend) events that connect them to functional peers outside your company. Most importantly, ask your people who they want to know and then help make the connections possible.
How not to do this: Simply saying, “you should network more” or “have you heard of MeetUp.com?”
3. Build learning into your culture.
Ask any leader if they’re done learning the answer is always, “no.” As head honcho, you are the one who sets the standard that learning is leading.
How do this: Accelerate leadership growth by providing access to hands-on development opportunities not just inside your company, but also outside. Keep in mind that if you have a “VP of People” (or equivalent), they’ve probably got their hands full with recruitment, onboarding, and HR admin; expecting them to also single-handedly elevate your team’s leadership game is unrealistic. Instead of leaning on your people leaders for all your learning in-house, encourage them to take an advantage of outside resources. Find a local training and development partner you trust who has experience cultivating leadership skills with growing teams like yours.
How not to do this: Believe that simply because you suggested a few books (or expensive webinars) that your people are going to feel confident demonstrating behaviors they’ve never had to practice before. Developing genuine leadership skills takes coaching, practice, support, and time.
Bottom line: Don’t make your team fly solo, build a community to help your team gain momentum.