What if you assumed that those people who work for you are in fact doing their best? As leaders we are quick to judge those we lead and when they don’t fit what we think they should be doing, we often get resentful and angry.
I believe that most of us are doing the best we can. Our challenge as leaders is to help challenge those we lead to grow into what is the next level of “best they can do.” If they are not willing to become the next best version of themselves, kindly send them on their way to somewhere else where their attributes will be appreciated.
Many of us are held back from doing better because we fear what the path getting there might look like. If we try something new, we might fail and look foolish. To do better, we might have to learn something new, which would mean admitting that we don’t know in the first place.
Being challenged to grow through our fears and beliefs can be a stormy place for most of us. As leaders we can set the course for those we lead so that they can get past their fears to grow:
- Paint an incredible vision of what it will look and feel like for the person to achieve their next level of performance. Keep reminding them of this vision when they are stuck.
- Believe in the person. Many people have never had someone else truly, deeply believe in their capabilities. Let them know that you truly believe they can reach their next level.
- Hold them accountable for both delivering the very best performance they can while stretching themselves into their future capability.
- Let them fail safely. People have to be able to fail in order to learn. Give them challenges that will stretch their capabilities, while at the same time protecting the organization from complete failure should they fall down in their attempt.
- Acknowledge the baby steps along the way. Growing into your new best self is a journey of many small steps. We often experience that giant leap in capability, but if you look at someone’s growth those giant leaps are almost always preceded by many, even hundreds, of small steps along the way.
- Model growth, by challenging and growing yourself into what is the next best you. By being vulnerable, showing your failures as well as your successes, and having a champion in your corner, you are modeling the behavior you want to see in your own people.
If you are having trouble seeing yourself in what I’ve described, consider The Vancouver Sun Run. It is one of the largest 10K (6.2 miles) run/walk events in North America attracting over 45,000 participants to run or walk every April. The Vancouver Sun Run didn’t start out that big. One of the ways they created belief for so many people that they could run 10K is that in January of each year hundreds of Sun Run clinics start up.
If you have never run 10K, they have a specific learn-to-run program that progressively increases the intensity of each work out week-by-week. People who can barely walk 10K take on a little more each and every week until at the end of 13 weeks they are trained to run/walk a full 10K. The vision is to run 10K, the belief is created by the Sun Run clinic leaders, and peer-to-peer connection creates accountability. If you miss one or two sessions there is still time to catch up and complete the training; each week is a milestone in taking training steps, and leaders share their own stories of training for the Sun Run.
We are all doing our best today. We each have the capability of making our best even better tomorrow. Hold those you lead accountable for doing their best every day, while leading them step-by-step into their new best self tomorrow. It won’t be smooth sailing, but you set the direction for everyone’s growth.