At some point in your career, you’ll need to start thinking about an exit strategy. Whether that’s due to retirement or changing positions, a plan will need to be put in place for who will be filling that role. Preparing your employees for leadership now will help make that future transition a smooth one.
There are multiple qualities that make a great leader, but if the individual doesn’t have opportunities to showcase those characteristics, you won’t be able to see them. Instead, provide leadership opportunities and work closely with employees to see those skills in action.
Find potential. Not all your employees are going to be leadership material, so the first step is to see which employees show potential. Try delegating some difficult tasks to employees and take note of how they accomplish them. If they come back asking for more tasks, it’s clear they enjoy those problem-solving skills that leaders require. Also learn about their goals and values to ensure they see staying with your company long-term to allow you enough time to develop them.
Give feedback. Your employees want to know how they’re doing, so be sure to give praise and criticism when able. Acknowledge those individuals who have been going above and beyond, but also give them some feedback on how they can improve. Leaders need to be able to take criticism, so the employees who appreciate those notes and want to better their performance are the ones to pay attention to.
Provide coaching opportunities. Allowing your employees to be mentors is like a trial run that lets you see their leadership abilities in action. When a new employee starts in your department, choose an older employee to act as their coach and help train them. This mentor should motivate and inspire them and showcase their expertise about the position.
Assign collaborative tasks. Good leaders must be able to work well with others. Delegate some tasks to a group who may or may not work well together. If there’s a disagreement or argument, a great leader will also step in to manage the conflict.
All these opportunities are not meant to be secret tests. When giving positive feedback, let the employee know that you’d like to see them in some leadership positions within the department and that you see potential in them to move up in the company. Some employees may not want that role, so it’s best to communicate with them before spending time developing leadership skills in someone who doesn’t want to be in charge.
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