By Matt Doyle, vice president and co-founder of Excel Builders.
Some people are natural leaders, but the best leaders don't always wear it on their sleeves. I take hiring decisions seriously, and I've always strongly believed in hiring from the inside. Bringing someone new into a group that works like a well-oiled machine is always a risk. Plus, I know that the quality of the services my business delivers is based, at least partly, on the strong and long-lasting relationships our team has built.
Since I value loyalty within my company, it's always been important for me to find leaders among people who weren't originally hired into leadership positions. I don't want to hire someone from the outside for leadership roles; I want the experience from someone who has already worked for me for a long time. As such, I've come up with a few techniques that reliably put my people in a position where they can step up.
Encourage them to fly early and often.
Give your employees opportunities to exercise leadership skills before they take on formal leadership roles. For example, certain projects may be better led by the person with the most directly related experience, rather than the person who has a management title. This gives non-managerial employees the chance to step up and lead a team. You or a manager should still set goals and deliverables for these projects, but you'll have the chance to examine how this employee handles new tasks, authority over others, and the responsibility of delivering a finished project.
One of the best signs an employee is ready for leadership is a desire for more responsibility. Make sure you are providing guidance to employees who are coming to you looking for the chance to take on more work. You should consider them first when you're looking for leaders for your next project. You can bolster their abilities in the meantime by sending them to leadership workshops or conferences.
Be their confidence until they have their own.
Not everyone feels like a natural leader, but some who possess the necessary skills may simply be suffering from a crisis of confidence. If one doesn't have past experience with leadership, it can be an incredibly intimidating proposition to try to get others rallying around a common goal. However, when given the chance, employees who have never been in such a position can suddenly shine. They just need some support from you first.
If you're trying to transition an employee into a leadership role, make sure that you're serving as their confidence until they can develop their own. There are several ways you can do this. First, let them know that you believe in them when they're handling tough projects. Make sure you mark their successes with positive reinforcement and praise.
Then, when they experience setbacks, help them understand their failures by discussing the failures you experienced when you were just starting out. Let them know that the most important thing is to be constantly moving forward; the only answer to failure is to immediately start working on the solution and not let disappointment affect you.
Invest directly in the skills you want to refine.
Even employees you identify as strong potential leaders will not come with every necessary skill attached. Sometimes, you need to invest in these individuals after they arrive to help mold them into the kind of leaders you need them to be. One great way to do this is by encouraging continuing education. You can do this by recommending books, classes or conferences going on in your area, and taking the time to discuss each of these with your employees.
Scout a new leader today.
You may never know what leadership potential already exists among your employees until you present them with chances to develop and hone their skills. Not all strong, natural leaders know how to present their strengths. To do so, they may need your help.
By looking within your company for potential leaders, and giving these individuals the support they need to grow and thrive, you can build leaders who know your business inside and out, and care about loyalty just as much as you do.
Matt Doyle is vice president and co-founder of Excel Builders, a revolutionary home builder that builds next-generation custom homes.