The best way to be in a great team is to build one.
1. Show your team how each of them can lead.
Most people do not view themselves as leaders. The quality of leadership is inside of them, but they need help to see it. It's common for people to get into the mindset that it's not their responsibility to fix the problem. There are many reasons why people don't dive in and fix something that's broken. The most common reason is that they are afraid that fixing the problem will take more work. That is where they are wrong. Although it may take more time initially to lead, my suggestion is to help your employees see the bigger picture and work with them to understand what their time investment will yield. Show them what is over the horizon. Explain to them that leadership has lasting consequences for fellow employees and customers and it is their obligation to help them. Make it personal and help them understand how fixing the problem will save them time and hassle.
It's important to build a team that leads without making the team feel overworked and underappreciated. The first step is to motivate your staff to take on the challenge of solving business problems because they are owners of the problems and the solutions. Euripides said something 2,500 years ago that sums it up for me: "If you do only what is required of you, you are a slave, the moment you do more, you are a free man."
2. Never stop talking about the "mission."
Your star employees work with you because they are on a mission. It's not just a job. They see the bigger vision. You need to help all your employees understand why they're coming to work each day. You cannot tell your employees enough about the vision you have for the company. Each time I share my thoughts, I get different questions that help everyone to understand the path we are on. When sharing the vision of how your company will make a difference, make sure to connect the dots of how they are connected to that vision. Once the dots connect inside of them, the sense of ownership takes hold and leadership begins.
In my business, one of the things we're trying to do is to reduce the amount of paper that companies use to pay and get paid. It's good for the environment and good for the company. It's also an easy vision to understand.
Once your team understands the bigger vision of the company, they need to feel empowered to take action to make the vision real. This feeling of empowerment starts with you setting high expectations and clearly communicating what is expected.
3. Set high expectations.
First, simply tell your team that you expect leadership. Second, tell them what leadership entails. Be honest that it is hard. Be equally honest about the deep satisfaction and feeling of being alive that comes from leadership.
I sometimes use a story from my personal life as a father. One day, I came home from work and my son Alec asked me, "How was your day, Dad?" I replied, "It was a good day." Later at dinner, my younger son, Bennett, asked me the same question. I told him, "It was a hard day." My two sons got into an animated discussion at the dinner table about how this could be the case and whether or not I was being honest with each response.
I asked my sons, "How do you feel when you work really hard?" They responded, "Tired, but satisfied."
I then asked them, "How do you feel when you do something tough?" They said, "Proud, happy, alive."
This story illustrates the point that a day of doing difficult work is a good day. Facing up to tough challenges is what make us feel alive.
Once your staff view themselves as leaders, they need to develop the skills to act as leaders. This is when good feedback is important.
4. Be specific with feedback on leadership development.
To reinforce leadership actions, I give specific feedback. For example, my company builds cloud-based software. People experience software, partially through the graphic design of the software (called user interface) and partially through the process that is designed to accomplish each task. The job of building a great user experience straddles both art and science. We refer to it as UX design.
Prior to a big meeting with one of our partners, we were planning a revamp to the look and feel of our software. Our UX designer and engineer took it upon themselves to really improve the product. They showed their leadership by doing what was needed for the business to grow. It would have been easy to put in less effort. UX design is subjective and they could have gotten their job done in one-third of the time. However, they wanted to do a great job and that meant spending three times the amount of time as doing a good job.
The meeting was a success. When I acknowledged his leadership and management of the product, I specifically called out the design elements that the customers appreciated, including the clean look of the product and improved navigation. I also called out the operational management skills he displayed to turn the product changes around in a short period of time.
Everyone can lead. The key to nurturing leadership in your team is to show them and remind them that they are leaders. If they believe in themselves and understand the bigger vision that the company is trying to achieve, they will do amazing things to make that vision into reality. All that's needed is a little guidance and coaching.