How to coach your Top Performers to become Leaders

Good and Great leaders develop more leaders around them. Mervyn Devis says, “unless you can, on a command, write down a list of people you have developed, you may just be in a leadership position by accident”. If you have not yet started invested in developing people, then you must take few minutes to examine what it takes to be a leader who can make significant impact on people and business. How your investment in people can enable and ensure the budding individual blossoms as leaders under your leadership?

The speed at which you raise in the leadership hierarchy is proportionate to the number of people you have developed as leaders.  When you develop and build more leaders around you, they automatically lift you up and give a push that will raise you to the top.

Deb, a General Manager in a family owned business, had to make a decision who is going to be the manager of the new work unit they are setting up. Sheela is one of the top performers. Sheela had consistently performed well in her tasks and everyone agrees she is the star in the business unit. It is obvious, Deb would pick Sheela to make the eventual next step –  take up the new role, leading the new work unit. But, will Sheela performer well in the new role just as she excelled in performing her tasks? Is Sheela ready for the role she is asked to step-up?

Leaders have key role in developing more leaders within their business units, a necessity cannot be and must not be outsourced. You can choose wisely as to how you can make the right investment of developing people. There is a high Return on Investment in developing people and turning top performers into leaders. The reward can be visibly seen in the consistency of high results delivered and faster raise in organizational hierarchy.

How could a busy leader find time and spend that time meaningfully to develop budding leaders who will shoulder the responsibilities in the coming months and years, grow the business, and eventually take the busy leader to the top? It is one thing to have many individual contributors in your group and altogether different to have leaders who drive the process and lead people – leaders who lead team well and adept at playing various management roles that requires leadership – and meet management expectations.

Have you identified who is a Hi-Potential in your function or department? Putting individuals with managerial responsibilities when they are not ready is not a reward, you are setting them up for a disaster. They need development investment – your time and effort -as well as opportunity and appreciation to blossom as leaders in your group?

Five Steps to ensure your top performers can grow as leaders under your leadership, how you can make an impact on people and business simultaneously:

  1. Identify Where you are going to make an Investment: Not everyone a top performer in your group, therefore, your investment in turning top performer into a leader is selective. Choose those individuals who show signs of promise and potential, in whom your investment can accelerate their progress as a leaders of the future in your organization. Differentiate Hi-Potential and Top-Performer, invest in developing people who show the signs of both. Be sure you are investing in those who are both independent and interdependent, not one requires high supervision; one who is developing sound judgement. Plan and work together with stakeholders in your organization who can have joint ownership for the same outcome.
  2.  Help Top Performing H-POs recognize Talents and Gaps: work with internal or external partners to establish natural talents that driving and enabling the individual perform well. Help the individual to understand the unknown – what is working well that he/she is unaware of and what talents the individual has but not yet realized it full potential. Identify roles that individual is suitable for in the future within your business or organization and measure gaps – where the individual need to learn and grow to be ready to take up the roles in the future, as and when they arrive. When you engage external partners or experts within your organization during this process take full interest in getting to know the finer details, it will help when you work with and work through those individuals.
  3.  Work on a Development plan and make them own it: Clarify the vision and purpose you and the organization aims to accomplish, allow the individual to envision the future and incorporate that in the development plan. There must be at least four broad areas you must help your protégée develop. Communicating Effectively, Building Strong Work Relationships, Planning and Execution, Setting Goals for self and others and Enabling Accountability, and Working Through People Effectively. Help them see the gaps and support them in developing a plan that will enable them to learn and grow. Inspire them, let them take interest in their own development. Help them understand why it is important to get ready for the opportunity than wait.
  4. Give them Space and hand-holding to step-up: frequent Interference, Remote Controlling, Spoon Feeding, quick judgements, these are some of the negative approach and attitude have consequences when you are investing in developing leaders. Allow the budding leader to take matters in their own hands while you are watching over them, be available and willing to contribute, to intervene and guide as and when required.  Give the budding leaders space to learn and grow, sure they will make mistakes here and there, turn those into learning opportunities.  Share your experience, explain the principles, but don’t make it an another “when I was” stories. Don’t takeover assignments without sufficient opportunity. Know when to direct, when to mentor, when to coach, and when to leave them on their own. In one-on-one conversation help those individuals explore and come to clarity about what unique contributions they bring in the new roles and assignments they undertake. Explore together with these individuals how knowledge and skills can be applied differently to make a greater impact.
  5. Set up appropriate mechanisms to measure and enable progress: Bring clarity on what development goals your protégé is working on at a given time. Have a broad framework in place that will connect individual’s learning to strategic development priorities, expected business outcomes, in which one can see clearly their relevance to their career growth. Establish an appropriate time frame to review and suggest areas where the individual can move faster and where needs to slow down to reflect. Help individuals to setup their own learning milestones and hold them accountable.
  6. Set the right example: More often when you are developing someone they are going to learn how you do certain things in certain way, absorb that and practice it in their own way. If you set the right example, they will follow and do the right things, it will create a positive ripple effect in your function or group. When you lead by example, invest in people to become leaders, the collective influence of such in the group performance and emotional engagement of all who involved is the reward that will surely satisfy you.

Little by little, the investment in key individuals to become leaders in your group over a period will have a profound impact in people and business. When you increase the number of leaders impacting people in your business, when it can be sensed in the ground reality of the energy and engagement in your business, you can be assured you have set yourself for some amazing days ahead.

Sudhakar I. Prabu brings rich experience of career spanning over 20 plus years which includes leadership role in three start-ups. He has successfully planned and executed enterprise-wide management strategies in performance improvement, leadership development, learning and development, and change management, as well as facilitated leadership excellence workshops for Business Managers, Functional Managers, and Middle level managers. He can be contacted at sudhakar(at)tpmc.in

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