Leading Your Team Members From Here to There

I recently attended a manager’s workshop about leading your team members to their potential. I’d like to share some key takeaways that I personally took from it. We started the session with the following quote. I really find it true. Not always easy, but true.

“It is our responsibility as a leader to help guide people from here to there. From who they are and where they have come from. And where they are now and what they are facing, feeling and fearing. To build on and open up opportunity for them. It is to help them see themselves through the eyes of others. It is to encourage and lead them to live out and to grow into what they can become.” Tom Cuthbert, September 20th, 2017

Three tips that I found especially helpful when thinking about how to lead people on my team from here to there were:

Know your team members background

Ask, “I’m curious, where are you from?” Know “who” they are and their background. When asking this question you will be able to understand the “from” to help you connect the dots to get to “there.” Hopefully, you’ll be able to get a good conversation going by asking follow up questions to this based on their answers. An important factor for this conversation is to do way more listening than you do talking. Ask lots of questions and let them think it through and talk it out. Example, “Why is that? What did you learn from it? Why is that important to you? Tell me more about that.” My guess is that it will be helpful to both you as the manager and your direct report when thinking about how to get to their future goals. The presenter pointed out that in the world today we are always so focused on the “now” that we forget to think about and talk about how we got to the “now.” Not just 5 or 10 years back, but back to our childhood, back to our parents careers when we were growing up, back to the things we did as a child, where and how we grew up. All of those things helped shape us and brought us to where we are today so they are very relevant. I thought that was really interesting to think about because I definitely get caught up in the “now.” The next thing I think about is the future. I rarely find myself (before today) thinking about the past.

Engaging one-to-one meetings

Have consistent, private, uninterrupted one to one meetings. Your team members need to know where they stand and you need to understand where they want to go. Eliminate distractions. The presenter pointed out (based on a study) that just having your cell phone out on the table decreases engagement by 25 percent. Even if it’s not dinging or vibrating, wow! If you need to take notes, he recommends doing it with old fashioned pen and paper vs an electronic device which has a slew of distractions associated. Be prepared so you can get the most out of the time. Create an agenda for your one-on-one meetings and make sure your team members have some input on the format and items to discuss. Remember both you and your employees should clearly articulate your expectations for these meetings. Then, what you do post meeting is just as important as the meeting itself. Write down, track and share the action items for follow-up.

Manage your “ask to answer ratio”

How many questions do you ask vs. answer? The goal here is to give direction and guide your team members through something vs giving them the answers. Leaving a person with the “problem” isn’t a bad thing. If you’re always taking their problem away for them, does it actually help them? That’s an interesting one for me. My nature is to help solve problems for people, but after listening to the full talk from the presenter it’s definitely got me thinking.

As a leader, the responsibility to lead people from here to there is YOURS. To draw out your team members abilities, trigger a passion and spark achievement beyond expectations. How can YOU help your team connect the dots in their life to succeed at the highest level?

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