Being a leader contains the whole stack of responsibilities. A big part of which is being a mentor, manage your teams growth and their professional development. I know a lot of leaders, who think they realize it very clear, hold regular “personal development” 1-on-1s with the team and think they’ve done a good job investing the time into the topic. Unfortunately, most of those same leaders don’t manage to achieve the goal and continue watching their people leave for better professional growth opportunities. 

What could be wrong here? 

Of course, sometimes we can’t blame the manager who is tied to a lean org structure or lack of opportunities which can be offered to a small startup team of 20 people, where everyone already wears so many hats. But as leaders, we have many options to keep our team growing, learning and trying knew things within the same scope of their roles:

  • Cross functional tasks
  • Assigning mentors to newbies
  • Creative challenges
  • Seasonal / ad-hoc projects
  • etc.

The same time we have quite a few “tricks” how to ruin the feeling, that this company is interested in the team growth and development. Let’s have a look at some points, which might be a signal that you are the reason your team doesn’t grow professionally.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not planning to put all the blame on managers and leaders only. It’s just that I truly believe, that being a leader gives us a great power to help people grow or gives this same power to do the other way around.

Here are the 7 signs you stop your team from growth, which I’ve noticed throughout my career:

1.You don’t notice the potential inside your team.

Do you remember opening a new job on your team? Do you look for this expertise inside your team on the first place or rather dream about the cool professional from the competing organization, who’s already “been there – done that”?

Potential is a tough thing to see sometimes. When everyone is assigned a set of tasks, how would you show your potential to a completely new role for you? Where do people get any experience to show us they are ready for a more managerial role or a role of a project manager on a different product. And therefore, how can we ask a leader to notice that potential for the future roles?

I’ve been asked this question by the young managers many times and I have the answer. When working on identifying potential it’s better to start with the “soft” stack of skills like:

  • Leadership
  • Independency
  • Ability to make tough decisions
  • Acting with the ownership of the result
  • Ability to inspire others
  • Public speaking
  • Confidence in taking ownership for difficult projects
  • Ability to understand the customer needs
  • etc.

In this case, when you focus on the “soft” stack of skills, you are more likely to notice people, who have the baseline-potential for a “bigger role”. And I hope you can agree, that most of the times, it is much easier to teach a person how the new product works, rather than teach them “ownership for a decision” or “decisiveness”.

2. You do notice the potential but don’t put it in action or use it in the wrong place.

You could be a good manager to notice people, who have a potential on your team. And I myself remember keeping a track of one or two people on my team to catch the right moment and drive them forward.

Once I had a girl on my team, who had a bright potential to train and facilitate others. But her talent was raw and needed quite a lot of time and energy of mine to work on it and improve it. So while I kept my thoughts to myself, the company went through a big change and this teammate had to leave. Today I am thinking if I had put that potential in action earlier and invested my time accordingly, I would have a great inside trainer by now.

3. You fix your team mistakes on your own.

This is something I was struggling a lot with at the beginning of me career. I became a manager when I was 20, because I was the brightest performer in the team. And as a high performer I knew very good how to bring the result. But I didn’t know yet how to help others to get the same brilliant results.

Today, 11 years later, I am still not perfect and once in awhile don’t delegate things, which people with potential could learn from.

4. You get defensive to creative ideas. 

I don’t have examples from my own “manager’s life”, but there is a person in my team, who gets really defensive and closed up when non-standard ideas are offered by the team.

Sometimes it is a matter of authority and control issues. When a manager has a decision, she wants this very decision or idea been taken into action.

Sometimes it is related to a lack of creative thinking. Not every person can think “out of the box”. But try to at least control your first reactions and non-verbal signals about how much you disagree with the idea. Be a coach for your team, ask questions on how this might work, where are the blockers and flaws. even if the idea is really bad, try to help your team mate to really see it.

5. You assign tasks in a much detailed manner with no room for creativity. “Just do it as I told you”. 

It is a fine option, when you work with a very process-based operational workers. There might be a guideline and a slight step out can cause a serious damage. Imagine construction or different kinds of production on assembly line. But if we are talking about the other jobs, you have to consider giving people more freedom and ability to learn on their own mistakes. How else you would see their potential and develop them into doing a more high-level work.

6. You give a feedback on what has to be improved, but never praise on a “well-done” job. 

One of my ex-bosses, a few companies earlier, was sure that he doesn’t have to say “thank you” or praise people for a job well done. Because “that is what’s the salary for”, he mentioned. But he was very generous on giving his people feedback on what they do wrong and what can be done better.

This was the company, where I was working with the highest amount of frustrated people. If you didn’t see it yet, when the majority of the team is frustrated – it’s not a productive nor inspiring place to work.

If there is no people on your team, who do good job once in awhile and you can’t praise your people at least once per week, something is really wrong. Wrong goals, wrong hires, wrong skills for the job or wrong manager. Oops.. The manager is you 🙂

7. You don’t ask your people on what they “really’ want.

This happened to me about 6 years ago. I was successful at my leadership role in HR and was dreaming about a career of VP People & Culture or COO in a cool international company.

I remember my boss scheduled a meeting with me and offered me a very different role, very far out of career in HR, People & Culture or Operations 🙂 I was confused, I didn’t see me there. I promised to think for an evening, but of course I said no the next day, which got my boss very frustrated.

We could avoid the frustration of both me and my boss if we had talked about what I wanted and where I saw my career going.

So these are the 7 signs you could be better at managing your people and helping them grow into high-performing and high-potential rock stars. Do you notice anything that sounds like you? 🙂

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