By April Shprintz
It’s interesting how we get caught up in the day to day and what we’ve got to do, focusing on the urgent versus the important. We’ll come in to the office and have a list of things on our to do list one morning and we’ll leave the office and have done 25 different things, and none of them are those important things. One of the most vital items that may not be on your list is making take time to invest in your people. It helps you understand who they are, what their goals are, and how that fits in your organization. It’s one of the top 3 things you can do to ensure success of your company or team and it’s often overlooked
Here are five ways you can take time to invest in your people and the reason doing so could be the most important thing you do today.
The most important thing you can do to invest in your people is to ask questions that have nothing to do with the things you’re asking them to execute on at the moment. Why? Sometimes employees may not feel comfortable coming to you. They may not feel like you have time, or they may not feel like what they have to say is important. Not sure what questions to ask? Here are five to start:
- What’s the best thing in your life right now?
- What do you love about your job?
- What would you change
- If you could have any role in the company, what would it be?
- What is the one thing we’re not focusing on that we should be?
When you ask them genuine, interested questions about their work, their life, and the things they want to do in your company, you’ll open up a conversation with them that will allow you to better understand who they are, what they offer to your organization, and how they best fit in your company’s plans for success.
Once you start asking your employees questions, they’ll not only answer you, they’ll come to you and share things that are important. Sometimes, that’s not convenient – you’re busy, under deadline, or just not in a place where you’re at your best to listen. Develop that listening skill. Make the time. When your employees need to talk to you about something they’re concerned about, a frustration they have, or even a great idea (!), listening to them will move your goals forward in multiple ways.
How? When you invest in your people by listening to them, some of your best improvements, innovations, and problem solving for your company will come from those conversations. Having that open dialogue – including actively listening to them – will allow you to make better overall decisions, be more proactive, and mentor them in a much better way.
A lot of leaders get stuck in the day-to-day grind of “deliverables” and “getting things done” and allow that to keep them from truly mentoring the folks that work for them. You don’t have to mentor every person you lead, but you need to make sure they have access to mentoring from you or one of the leaders you manage. I’m talking about true mentorship – folks who will take the time to listen to what the employee loves about what they do, observe what his or her natural skill sets are, and help align the employee in a role that suits those as much as possible.
Mentoring can sometimes be scary because you may find out your “A-Player” Financial Analyst really wants to try a sales role. Even though that person is amazing at what they’re doing today, they’re going to be that much more amazing at something they truly love.
Mentorship requires you to understand who they are and to give them advice and crucial feedback on how they can be better. That means not just giving the good feedback, but also addressing the gap between where they want to be and where their skill set is today.
This is hugely valuable to your employees and to you. As you develop your folks, you’ll continue to build a bench of stronger players.
In number three, we talked about how someone who might be amazing in one area of your company might want to make a move. The truth is, anyone who is amazing will rarely want to stand still.
You have to allow them movement of some sort – because, to an “A-Player,” stagnation is death.
They’re going to need to move into increasing responsibility and new and interesting work. It can be tough to recognize the need for movement among your best employees because you love them where they are and the performance you’re getting from them. However, your best stars will not stay in one place without being given work that keeps them continually challenged, motivated, and excited.
If you’re worried you won’t know what that work is, fear not. You’re going to find out by asking, listening to, and mentoring them.
In some cases, increased responsibility won’t be enough for your employees. They’ll want to explore different areas of the company – or even move on to another company. There are going to be cases where you’ll have to let an employee go on to pursue their dreams in a role that’s better for them.
Our best employees grow and advance – and to truly embrace the Generosity Culture, you have to want what is best for them. That includes letting an employee go when he or she is not a good fit for your organization.
It can be a great gift to let someone go – whether you’re letting them go by their choice or letting someone go by your choice. If you let them go with appreciation for all they did for your company and are excited for the new opportunities for them, they will often surprise you by sending other great employees to you as a referral.
These five things are interrelated. The most generous and savvy thing you can do as a leader is to invest in your people. The returns on that investment will astound you.
April Shprintz is a Business Acccelerator and creator of The Generosity Culture. She has contributed to Forbes, Home Business Magazine and various military publicatons. You can learn more about how she helps businesses at www.drivenoutcomes.com and follow her on Linked In for regular business insights and advice.