When you think about employee growth and development, chances are good you immediately imagine your learning management system. Or, perhaps you think about employees pursuing projects that help them grow and develop personally. What you might not think about, though, is how your example encourages growth and development within your teams.
The truth is that leaders provide the example on which their employees model their behavior. If you don’t value personal growth and development, then they won’t either. If you don’t watch how you act around others or interact with people, they won’t either.
You must provide a positive example, but it can be daunting to do so. We’ve compiled a few critical tips to help with top-down leadership and setting the right example for your teams. With this information, it should be simpler to get everyone aboard and moving in the right direction.
What Do You Do?
One of the single most important considerations here is what you do as a leader. How do you act? What do you focus on? How do you interact with others? You can expect your teams to follow your example here.
So, for instance, if you focus solely on profitability and keeping the company in the black, then that will trickle down to your teams. They’re going to pursue profit even at the expense of personal development. Chances are good that they won’t assign much value to things like trust or accountability. If it doesn’t deliver an immediate, recognizable financial return, it’s not worth it in their minds.
That’s not a mindset that you should have, but remember that your team members can’t see what’s in your head. They can only see what you do and how you act. While you should certainly put company profitability high on your list of priorities, people must see a bit more balance. Answer these questions and you’ll be better positioned for success:
- Am I living up to the ideals that I espouse?
- Am I focusing solely on hard metrics like KPIs?
- Do I give attention to softer things like positive psychology?
- Do I take a holistic view of work and personal life?
If you answered no to any of those questions, then you have some work to do to set the right example as a leader. Understand that you set the tone for the entire team, department, or business as a whole. If you don’t focus on growth and development, neither will anyone else.
What Do You Celebrate?
In a way, what you celebrate is even more important than what you do or don’t do. That’s because what you celebrate communicates what you value most. For instance, if you only celebrate employees who push down costs or bump up profits, then your employees are going to see that you’re profit-driven and will tailor their efforts accordingly.
So, what does “celebrate” really mean? It’s about appreciating things that you may not be able to do yourself, skills you may never possess, or achievements you can never personally reach. It’s a pretty broad focus, as you can see. In a tactical setting, how do you go about showing what you celebrate? There are plenty of ways to do this that can communicate a (positive) message to your team.
For instance, suppose you’re having a team meeting and you call someone out for doing something that you’re grateful for. That’s celebrating an achievement that’s not your own and showing recognition to a team member for their contributions. Another example might be recognizing in a check-in or one-on-one how well an employee handled a frustrated customer and communicating how grateful you are for their skill and patience.
The Emotions That You Show
In the past, the workplace was supposed to be largely emotionally-devoid. You celebrated work successes, but that’s probably as far as emotions went. That’s the wrong approach and we’re are just beginning to understand that.
Human beings are emotional creatures. All of our interactions are driven by an emotion of some sort, or create emotions within us, whether we show them or not. It might be a sense of trust, of accomplishment, of contentment. It could be a negative emotion too, such as distrust, disconnect, anger, or disappointment.
As a leader, it’s your job to lead by example, and that includes the emotions that you show. For instance, showing anger in the workplace permits your employees to show their anger (which is rarely a good thing). It also opens up the possibility of other negative emotions, like fear, apprehension, and anxiety.
Instead, you should lead by displaying positive emotions. Show gratitude. Offer praise and be thankful. Show how much you appreciate others, and how much you care about their personal and professional success. Doing so creates a completely different paradigm – one where your team members are confident, can work with autonomy, and feel a greater sense of loyalty.
Focusing on Growth Opportunities
As a final note, you should also focus on encouraging your team members to take advantage of personal and professional growth opportunities. This ties into everything we’ve discussed so far, but takes it a step further. Ask – what are their personal goals? What do they want to achieve professionally? How can the organization help them reach those goals? What can be added to the LMS that might make it possible for them to grow and develop?
By coming right out and asking, you lead by example, plus you show everyone that you’re committed to growth and development. You walk the walk and set the tone for every other employee-employee interaction in the company.
Examine Yourself and Adjust Appropriately
Ultimately, the leaders in a business set the tone and example for others to follow. Examine yourself – do you practice what you preach? Do you value growth and development? Do you show that to others? If not, how can you do better and help set a positive example?