I was in a 1:1 the other day and my mentee and I were discussing what makes a good consultant. The desire to learn was the main focus of our conversation, and we both agreed that to be a rock star, you should always want to learn and improve. Since my mentee is just starting his future as a Project Manager and building his leadership skills, I cautioned him to pay close attention to his team. Some people may not have the quality we were discussing. Others, perhaps, may be too afraid to do anything with their desire to learn and grow. Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with say “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing.” Where are you noticing fear show up within or around you, and what are you doing about it?
Learning and doing are two different things. Many people take action on what they’ve learned, while more people only think about doing something with their new knowledge or skill. It’s important to notice the difference - both within yourself and others - and encourage those who let fear stand in their way to take little steps to help build their confidence. The feelings people have towards a particular task or situation come from the past. So the best way to replace those feels of trepidation or anxiety is to take action, complete assignments, review your successes, and build your confidence.
As a leader in the company, it’s up to you to help guide your team and encourage their success. Perhaps you don’t have training or experience in this area, or maybe there’s a little voice inside your head telling you that you aren’t qualified to help others in this manner. While the former may be true, the latter never will be. You (and your peers) will always be capable of building the confidence of those around you. Pick up on things they’re good at and point them out. Congratulate them on their professional and well-written e-mail. Tell them how much you appreciate their timely response on that urgent matter. While you’re showing them how well they performed a task, offer suggestions for how they might be able to improve - in the same or perhaps a related area. Be sure to provide feedback from a place of helping and teaching. If you’re negatively judging the person you’re giving feedback to, they’ll notice, and your words will be ignored (or at least not nearly as effective). You’ll also lose the trust and respect of the person on the receiving end of your advice.
Be mindful when offering suggestions to your team on ways to improve. Are you saying they should do something that you aren’t doing? Is the feedback something you could be doing or is it best left for your team to tackle while you focus on higher-level issues? The best way for your team to learn is for you to lead by example. Exhibit the qualities and characteristics that you want your team to show to build faith and regard with them. That will allow them to accept your observations and will improve the overall organization as everyone works together to master new skills and grow.
I'm not saying you have to be perfect to assess your team. No one is without flaws, and the sooner you’re okay with that, the sooner you can shift your focus back to where you want to go and how you can get there. Be open to constructive criticism that comes to you from your team. Like you want to help them develop, they want the same for you. Your team should look up to you. The better and stronger you can be, the more prepared and capable your team will be. Your coworkers know what kind of a leader they need, and they will work with you to help you get there.
Along with providing feedback to your team comes challenging them. Unless you were in your coworker's exact role before, you might not know what it takes to get the results they’re seeking. Further, you don’t have to pretend as you do. Rather than offer suggestions you’re not sure will produce the outcome they're looking to see, it's usually better (and easier for you) to challenge them to come up with their improvement plan. During your 1:1s, ask your team members what went well for them in the past week and what area(s) for improvement they can see. When share where they imagine development is needed, ask them to offer suggestions on how to accomplish their goal. Having your workers come up with the plan of action enhances their critical thinking ability, bolsters their confidence, and allows them to buy into the solution more.
In conclusion, pay attention to your team’s habits and behaviors to see if they have the drive you’re looking for or if they’re just letting fear get in their way. Tell your coworkers when they do something well, offer them suggestions for improvements, and challenge them to come up with their solutions. Along with leading by example, those actions will give your team the confidence and guidance they need to be successful. If there’s fear preventing you from being your best, reach out to me to discuss how I can help.