Constantly develop your bench
Leadership and coaching may not be the skills you’ve considered as part of your natural gifts. In fact, you may not like to teach at all or you may be the type manager that believes that your role should more of the traffic cop than the change agent. The truth is that no matter how much you fight or resist, there is one constant in the people and relationships universe and that is…..things change. In short order, a team can go from all seasoned veterans to all rookies over night. Three things need to happen consistently, without fail, to keep the bench strength up on your team.
First, is the training of new people…the newbie or what they call ‘rookies’ in sports. You do not have to train the newbies yourself, perhaps you have an experienced person on your team who is a natural trainer or teacher. Perhaps that’s even their area of greatness. The best strategy is if each person on the team contributes daily to the newbie learning the fundamentals and the culture of the team. Everyone teaches something, at least one thing. Everyone gains from that, there is team bonding and trust established, credibility goes up.
The least effective way is in a class room, with a corporate trainer. Even if they are great at what they do, the corporate trainers and/or HR managers are often disconnected from the real daily activity of the team. It’s not their fault, they are just not involved in the daily practical applications of skills in the organization. Typically, corporate training courses are general in nature as well and most try to pack too much material into a short period of learning, like two or three days. Human beings statistically only absorb 40% of the total input in a given day. Out of that 40% of the input absorbed, only 40% of it is actually retained. It’s a good introduction, but real learning occurs from within the team. There is also one side benefit from the ‘everyone teaches something’ strategy; Each person gets better at what they do! You must really know your material to teach it to someone so forces you to be more knowledgeable than before.
Having each person on the team involved with coaching and training the new person is a great way to develop the communication lines and culture but by itself it’s not enough. You as the manager/leader/coach may not want to do the teaching but you must be involved directly with the career development of that rookie…in fact, with everyone on the team! That’s the second critical factor to developing your bench. There is an old saying that people do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Consider that a proven axiom of management and leadership. This is NOT to suggest that you are required to become directly involved with employees personal baggage, only that you show genuine interest and follow through in the career development of each person. Give equitable time to everyone, show no favoritism. That goes a long way in establishing your credibility.
Lastly, every team leader needs to continuously develop a successor, someone to run the show when you are not there. This cannot be stressed enough. A great ‘number two’ often gets promoted to a number spot as well, the best strategy is to start early developing their successor.
Teams are constantly in a state of change, nothing is ever static. An effective manager/leader/coach is always looking two steps ahead.