How do we develop the leaders around us? How do we help others reach their full potential?
The first step is to be careful about who we define as ‘others.’ On the front end, we need to be selective about who we welcome into our organizations. That means not only who we hire, but
also who we keep.
On Who To Hire
“Whom does he influence? The quality of the follower will indicate the quality of the leader. Are his followers positive producers or a bunch of mediocre yes-men?” (p. 49).
“If you want to give yourself a chance to win, start by picking winners” (p. 145).
On Who To Keep
Very simply, if people in our organization are not actively adding value to our organization, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Maxwell differentiates people using two different general characterizations: salary takers and salary makers. Here’s how he describes their thinking on pages 179-180:
What will I receive? What will it take to get by? It’s not my job. Someone else is responsible. How can I look good? Will it pass? The paycheck is the reason I work. Am I better off because I work here? Pay me now, I’ll produce later.
What can I give? I’ll do whatever it takes to get it right. Whatever the job, I can help you. I’m responsible. How can the team look good? Is it my best? The paycheck is a by-product of my work. Is the team better off because I work here? I’ll produce now, you can pay me later.”
It’s no surprise that salary makers demand higher salaries, but this is no deterrent at all if they truly add value. As Maxwell shares, “One of the things my father taught me was the importance of people above all other elements in an organization. He was the president of a college for sixteen years. One day, as we sat on a campus bench, he explained that the most expensive workers on campus were not the highest paid. The most expensive ones were the people who were nonproductive. He explained that developing leaders took time and cost money. You usually had to pay leaders more. But such people were an invaluable asset. They attracted a higher quality of person; they were more productive; and they continued to add value to the organization. He closed the conversation by saying, ‘Most people produce only when they feel like it. Leaders produce even when they don’t feel like it’” (p. 13).
We must do what we can to ensure we have as many salary makers and as few salary takers in our organizations as possible! But even the perfect assembly of personnel still requires further filtering to discover our ‘others’ that we’re looking to develop. Not just anyone who works for us will be developed by us. If we attempt to help everyone under our leadership, we will effectively help no one.
On Who To Invest In
“When structuring your support system, provide the top 20 percent producers with 80 percent of the total support” (p. 79).
“One of the biggest mistakes a coach can make is to believe he must treat all of his players the same. Coaches are hired to win - not to make everyone happy or give everyone equal time, money, or resources. Every player must be given support and encouragement. But to believe that everyone must receive the same treatment is not only unrealistic but destructive. When all players are treated and compensated the same, poor or mediocre performance is being rewarded the same as outstanding contributions by the best players” (p. 155).
If we're unsure of how many leaders around us we can effectively deveop, why not start with one? We’ll already be empowering more than we were previously, and there’s always room to add later on as we grow in our own leadership ability. That said, we’re ready for the juicy part. How do we develop the leaders around us?
Get ready for the spoiler, because it comes down to this: train them intentionally, entrusting them with more one step at a time. Invest in them with your time, your finances, and your care. Make them better by prioritizing their development and their dreams!
Easier said than done, of course, but here are some of Maxwell’s insights in these regards that can help us along the way.
Develop Leaders One Step At A Time
“A lofty title doesn’t help a poor producer. A lowly title doesn’t hinder a super producer” (p. 24)
“There will be times you aren’t sure about a player’s performance level because you haven’t had time to observe him… when that happens, give him frequent but small opportunities” (p. 155).
Prioritize Your Leaders’ Wants
“One of Napoleon Bonaparte’s leadership secrets was knowing the needs of his men. He first determined what his men wanted most. Then he did everything possible to help them get it” (p. 22).
“Whenever people want something but see no way to get it, they will not be motivated. One of your jobs as the leader is to determine how your potential leaders can achieve what they desire and show them a way to do it” (p. 110).
“If you are fortunate enough to have strong leaders in your influence, begin developing them by putting them on a personal plan for growth … After you have gotten to know them - their strengths, weaknesses, desires, goals, etc. - sit down with them and prepare a personal growth plan tailored to them” (p. 200)
Some other ideas on how to empower their wants are found on pages 26 and 27:
Believe In Your Leaders
“Carnegie replied, ‘Men are developed the same way gold is mined. Several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. But you don’t go into the mine looking for dirt,’ he added. ‘You go in looking for the gold.’ That’s exactly the way to develop positive, successful people. Look for the gold, not the dirt; the good, not the bad. The more positive qualities you look for, the more you are going to find’” (p. 37).
“A potential leader who feels secure is more likely to take risks, try to excel, break new ground, and succeed” (p. 75)
“As General Geroge S. Patton once remarked, ‘Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.’ You can’t turn people loose without structure, but you also want to give them enough freedom to be creative” (p. 98).
“People rise to our level of expectations. They try to give us what we reward” (p. 75).
“When they see it in me, they recognize its importance. And they soon adopt that belief as their own” (p. 173).
Clearly Communicate Both The Big And Small Picture To Your Leaders
“Another way to add significance to the lives of the people you lead is to show them the big picture and let them know how they contribute to it. Many people get so caught up in the task of the moment that they cannot see the importance of what they do” (p. 74).
“One of the best ways to clarify expectations is to provide your people with job descriptions. In the description, identify the four to six primary functions you want the person to perform. Avoid long laundry lists of responsibilities. If the job description can’t be summarized, the job is probably too broad. Also try to make clear what authority they have, the working parameters for each function they are to perform, and what the chain of authority is within the organization” (p. 95).
“Poor communicators are focused on themselves and their own opinions. Good communicators focus on the response of the person they’re talking to” (p. 57).
According to Bear Bryant on page 146, we need not only to tell people what we expect of them on the front end, but also to let them know how they’re doing along the way.
Give Your Leaders The Support They Need
Maxwell identifies 5 key areas in which we can support our potential leaders, found on page 78:
This need for emotional support in particular, while well summarized already, cannot be overstated. In a survey administered by training organization Padgett Thompson, employees identified the following three things they valued most in an employer: appreciation for a job well done, a feeling that they’re ‘in’ on things, and management having an understanding of their personal problems (p. 148).
In other words, when we are leading people, we are not leading them solely within the confines of our own organization and its goals. We are leading them, as holistic individuals, whether we intend to or not. Here’s a tip from Maxwell on how to effectively bridge the gap between potential leaders’ work and personal life:
“I have found that one of the best ways to get members of a team to care about one another is to get them together outside of a work context in order to build relationships. Every year in our organization we plan retreats and other events that put our people together in social settings” (p. 132).
Remember: We Need To Develop Leaders
“A leader who produces followers limits his success to what his direct, personal influence touches” (p. 187).
“Structure can mean the difference between a bad organization and a good one. But the difference between a good organization and a great one is leadership” (p. 12).
“Stop for a moment and think of the five or six people closest to you in your organization. Are you developing them? Do you have a game plan for them? Are they growing? Have they been able to lift your load?” (p. 3).
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