Faced with increasingly turbulent economic times, businesses are rapidly learning the importance of strong leadership. The world has had enough problems dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and its aftermath. And companies that lacked strong leaders have been struggling to move through a nonstop stream of business problems in recent years. Many organizations have responded by emphasizing short-term performance. But the truth is that you’ll ultimately achieve better results by developing your team, as well. It’s a long game. However, this strategy pays in multiple ways.
Developing Your Team Builds Strength for the Future
During difficult times, it is natural for businesses to focus on achieving essential near-term results. The burden of generating more leads, maintaining a strong sales pipeline, and sustaining profitability normally falls to leaders. But these objectives also need to be balanced with broader business interests.
When teams are successful, it’s clear that their leaders are effectively managing people, strategy and resources. But when the inverse is true, it can underscore leadership problems that shouldn’t be ignored.
Here’s a contradiction that makes things even more complicated: as companies push harder for better results from team members, staff are likely to feel underappreciated, especially if individuals aren’t encouraged to develop in ways that help them grow professionally.
So, you may get the results you need in the short-term. But it can come at the cost of long-term company success, as skilled team members decide to move on and pursue more promising opportunities.
In this article, we look at how business leaders can strike a better balance between driving great results and developing their teams.
Great Leadership is a Journey, Not a Destination
The first thing to consider is that it is important to understand your own expectations of leadership, and determine if you ought to adjust those assumptions. Being a leader means making measured decisions and balancing their consequences every single day.
You can always learn more and understand more. But this isn’t something leaders can afford to take for granted. It’s important to intentionally embrace growth and stay open to learning — for yourself and everyone on your team.
“The best leaders learn from experiences — including failures — and apply those lessons to unfamiliar situations in the future,” says Gemma Leigh Roberts, a chartered psychologist specializing in leadership. “They see challenges as opportunities, as opposed to threats, proactively seek knowledge to stay up to date in a rapidly shifting professional environment, and are curious to identify areas for development and try new ways of doing things.”
Retain Top Staff by Developing Your Team
It is important to remember that if you want to get strong results across your company, you need a strong team. Your business results are driven by the people working with you. There is always pressure to get the best out of all your people in their day-to-day activities. But it’s equally important to ensure that top performers are kept happy, challenged, and supported.
Remember that talented individuals will always be able to find positions elsewhere. So, you’ll want to nurture and retain your organization’s best performers. A key way of doing this is by providing them with opportunities for career growth and development.
“While training is often necessary when teaching people new skills, it’s only the first step toward a more distant end,” says Margaret Rogers in Harvard Business Review. “In my experience, the most impactful development happens not through formal programs, but also through smaller moments that occur within the workplace: on-the-job learning opportunities that are wholeheartedly catered to the worker’s unique needs and challenges.”
Ideas for Developing Your Team While Keeping Results in Mind
1. Link Personal Goals to Business Goals
Too often, when we think about “top performers,” we consider it only from the perspective of how well people are achieving their professional goals. But it’s also important to link their goals with business objectives. To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example:
Imagine the highest-performing member of your sales team completes 50 sales in a recent month. But since then, only 5 of those sales have turned into repeat business because your top performer has been overselling in order to complete the original sales. Meanwhile, another member of the team made 30 sensible sales, and has subsequently turned 15 of those sales into valuable repeat business.
Here’s another example: Say a staff member wants to upskill for a role that will benefit your business, and they want to enhance their driving capabilities. By supporting this staff member’s personal training goals, you can help them acquire a higher-level license that will also be of value to your organization. In this circumstance, a personal goal can serve two purposes — simultaneously helping a team member grow while also helping the organization address business needs.
2. Establish Achievable Goals
If you want to motivate staff and provide them with opportunities for development, you need to ensure that you set realistic goals for their growth. It is also important for leaders to understand and agree with the scope of these goals.
“You need to have the discipline to take risks,” explains Howard Shore of management training specialists, Activate Group. “If your management and executive team are not aligned in their goals, and if your company culture is underdeveloped and unsupportive of change, this can create enormous friction.”
3. Know When to Change and Adapt
Leaders and managers recognize when their business is doing well because they’re rewarded with strong revenues, profits, and momentum. They know established goals are being met. Likewise, their employees and customers also feel more accomplished and satisfied. However, if success comes down to striking a good balance between today’s results and preparation for the future, then it’s essential to recognize when things may be off-balance.
Smart leaders know how critical it is to stay alert and keep an eye out for issues that require adjustment. When, how and why can an off-kilter equilibrium slow your progress or tip the scales of success against you? Here are some obvious but important factors to keep in mind:
- Rising salaries
- Increasing financial costs from external causes, such as inflation, recession, exchange rate fluctuations or taxes
- Falling profits
- Deteriorating business growth
- Staffing issues
- Supply chain problems
- Threatening economic events or political instability.
4. Give Staff Ample Agency to Grow
It is important for staff to understand that they have agency in your business. The best way to manage this is by delegating tasks to team members, rather than trying to manage everything yourself. In this context, effective leaders focus on how to let people lead themselves. Having agency gives people a chance to develop on their own terms, and provides paths to growth that can be beneficial to the business as well as the individual.
5. Link Success to Opportunity
Just as it is wise to provide staff with the chance to grow, it is important to emphasize the idea that a company’s long-term success depends on team members’ collective contributions. Company-wide success is an opportunity for staff, too. This is why goal alignment matters. In the best-case scenario, individual success aligns with company achievements. This makes it easier to find an effective balance between results and team growth.
Final Notes on Driving Results Versus Developing Your Team
Leaders are essential to team success. A great team with poor leadership can lose focus or descend into infighting. It is up to management to find ways to maximize results while also ensuring effective development of their team. By keeping a continuous eye on both and proactively managing both sides of the equation, companies look forward to long-term success.