Every good leader eventually needs to pass the mic. But it isn't always easy.
Passing the mic isn't the same as handing over the keys to your office or executing a succession plan. Passing the mic is the idea of allowing more junior but competent employees to get some face time with top-level leaders. This is about preparing them to eventually realize their full potential and sharing the lessons you've learned along the way.
The more insensitive you are as a leader, the less willing you may be to share the mic. Sharing the spotlight can be hard but letting go and allowing someone else take the lead on an important project can be empowering for the leader and the subordinate.
Watching someone struggle -- even if it's while they're growing -- is part of the process. As a leader, it's your job to prepare people for the responsibilities you want them to take on. It's also your job to help them learn from your mistakes, to help them see their blind spots, and to navigate a corporate culture you've mastered.
Here are some key steps to take in that direction:
1. Prepare employees for the opportunities you want to give them.
One way to pass the mic is to allow and encourage competent employees to speak in front of senior leadership. This could be communicating the vision for a project, explaining a budget or timeline, or talking through a launch initiative. Before putting someone into a position to do something like this, though, it's in everyone's best interest to do a little coaching. Teach the employee how to read the room, how to speak the company language, and how to make an effective presentation to their audience.
Make it a gradual process so the person taking over the mic finds it empowering and not overwhelming. Let them know you're preparing them for opportunities to come.
2. Explain Company Politics.
Politics is often considered a bad word in corporate settings, but it doesn't have to be. When you achieve a certain level of leadership stature in your company, it's likely that you have mastered the culture and politics. That's a good thing. It means you understand how the work gets done within your organization. Your mastery of internal politics and culture is one of the reasons why you were promoted, especially if you've been promoted three or four times.
You know who makes decisions, who really has authority and what the chain of command is. You know how things get done at work. Understanding how concepts are communicated, whose support is needed to drive change, and who can sink a project is valuable information to pass on to anyone who may aspire to follow in your footsteps.
Politics is understanding how decisions get made by organizations, and that information is critical, especially for employees moving up the ranks.
3. Rally Support From Other Leaders In Your Organization
If you believe enough in a person to give them a chance, consider rallying support from fellow corporate leaders. Let them know when and why you're handing the mic over and to whom. If increasing an employee's responsibilities and profile within a company is key to keeping them -- and keeping them happy -- let others know.
Ask them for additional support and patience for the employee if you think it's necessary. It's okay to tell your peers that you've been coaching an employee and that there may be points where a growing employee struggles and to ask for grace and support.
In most organizations, this kind of thing goes a long way, especially when your leadership team realizes that what you're doing is trying to build up a person with high potential.
They will look forward to being next.