When it comes to someone developing into the best version of themselves, we've been tricked into believing a common myth: It's the idea that people develop into this version of themselves on their own.
We have all thought this or even tried it. If you just read enough, practice enough, watch enough or get enough reps, your growth and development will take of itself.
There is one big problem with this idea; you are only going to be able to take yourself so far on your own, and it's not going to be the best version of yourself.
This is where leadership comes in. At the core of leadership is helping someone to become the best version of themselves and excel.
Why Most Managers Don't Do It
There are many reasons leaders stop short of helping their team members excel; one of the most common is the fear of losing top talent. (Even writing that sounded bad!) This week, one of the most important people in my professional journey left the company after 5+ years of working together. It was a mutual decision to allow her to take a great position and challenge herself in a new company. While it will be hard not having her on the team, it's the right thing to do for her. If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember this:
Losing talented people is a challenging part of leadership, but it's also the purpose of it.
When you look at exceptional leaders, it is not uncommon to see most of their most talented people take a similar path with an upward trajectory. Take Nick Saban, for example. For the last 15+ years, the college football world has raided his coaching staff to find head coaches. The kind of wisdom and development these future leaders have experienced in their previous roles under Saban is well known. Not only does Saban embrace this, but he also looks at it as a critical part of his job.
So how do you mimic Nick Saban and help your people become the best version of themselves and excel? Here are four tips to keep in mind:
1. You Can't Do it For Them
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but you have to start with the correct mindset that you can't do the work required to become the best version of themselves for them. In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast with Rob Siegfried, CEO of The Siegfried Group, he shed light on this exact subject.
"The transformation process has to come from you. Leaders can help someone transform themselves (with development opportunities), but we can't transform for them."
2. Create Opportunities for Development
If you settle for the same opportunities, output or effort people give on a day in, day out basis; there won't be much growth happening. It would help if you challenged people with development opportunities. There is a big sign in my gym with a quote from Fred DeVito that reflects the importance of this, "if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you!"
Development opportunities come in many forms, such as industry events, distributing books, sharing blogs, bringing in a speaker, and many others. Instead of getting caught up in how you do this for your team, the key is that you are doing it.
3. Build a Love Tough and Thick Skin Culture
Last year, I went to Kansas City to help develop managers' leadership skills at Amsted Rail. Part of the day included a tour facility and learning the process of building steel train wheels from start to finish. They use extreme heat to mold the steel into circular wheels. Without the heat, the wheels would never become the best version of themselves, and I have found that this process can apply to future leaders as well.
To become the best version of yourself often takes some heat, such as "love tough" and "having thick skin." The best leaders recognize this, and they make sharing the truth in a constructive way a big part of their culture.
All improvement starts with the truth.
The danger of this kind of approach is if the people you are trying to develop don't know you care about them, you risk your tough love having the opposite of your intended effect. So keep in mind the wise words of one of my mentors, "rules without relationship leads to rebellion."
4. Be an Uber Coach
One way a leader separates themselves from being a manager is the mindset they take to coaching others. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. Coaching comes from the word "carriage," meaning to take someone from point A to point B.
In our Coaching for Excellence workshops, I teach leaders to embrace the mindset of an "Uber Coach." Much like an uber driver, leaders must be willing and able to coach team members anyplace and anytime when needed or required.
Coaching once a year in a performance review isn't coaching, it's negligence.
If you are going to help your people become the best version of themselves, you must coach them like crazy. While outside professional or executive coaches can provide tremendous perspective, they can't coach daily. If you lead a team, it's your responsibility to make coaching your people a top priority.
Doing these things as a leader will not work on 100% of the people you pour into. But it will work on the individual who has come to a point in their journey where they cannot move forward anymore without the help of someone else- you. That is when your efforts will propel them into becoming the very best version of themselves, allowing them to move onwards and upwards to bigger and better things.
About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.