3 Things Great Leaders Do To Set People Up For Success

Jimmy walked slowly down the hall to his supervisor's office. His thoughts were on a sales presentation. The presentation was in two hours and he really needed to put the finishing touches on it.

He clutched the small coffee cup in his hand, careful not to spill it. His mind raced as he thought about what the meeting could possibly be about.  The email simply stated, “Come see me first thing in the morning so we can talk.”

As he reached his supervisor's office, Stephanie, the Human Resources Director, welcomed him and told him to take a seat.

As the meeting ended, Jimmy left refreshed and relieved.  What started out as an uncomfortable meeting turned into a great coaching session.

The supervisor was disappointed with Jimmy's current performance.  Jimmy had no idea what the expectations were or what success looked like. He was hired and told to go sell.

How many times have you, as the leader been in this position? You are about to have a serious discussion with an employee about their performance but find out that you were a lousy leader.  You were part of the problem and now the solution.

Employees typically don’t fail. They are failed by their leaders.

Here are 3 things you can do as a leader to ensure your team members are set up for success.

1. Prepare a well thought out and planned job description.  It doesn’t have to be a five page document. There should be four or five key elements that show them what success looks like.  This needs to be written out for the employee.  It needs to be clear.

  • Here is what you need to do every month
  • Here are the clear expectations
  • Success looks like ………..
  • Give the employee structure

2. Determine what the training and development needs are on the front end. Every employee will have training and development needs.  It’s your job as the leader to find out what they are and provide it. Training and development are critical drivers that lead to high-performing employees and better retention.

  • Give them challenging job assignments with significant and varied responsibilities.
  • Stretch them with opportunities that will accelerate their growth through leadership positions.
  • Expose their work to higher-level executives, give them visibility and accountability.   Hold them responsible for their failures and reward them for success.
  • Provide candid and honest feedback.  This is crucial.  A great resource for this is the new book by Julie Winkle Giulioni and Dr. Beverly Kaye,  Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go.

One key is that the leadership and culture of your organization supports a learning and growing environment. The organization should be fully committed to supporting individuals by creating and encouraging stretch job assignments as part of their development.

3. Provide a path for the employee. Twenty years of the same job won’t get or keep a lot of people.  Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and the author of The Start Up of You, states that companies want and need to hire people, but only those who want to be a part of what the organization is doing.

  • Have a plan for employees that shows them where they will be in 1 year, 18 months, 2 years. Waiting 5 years won’t work any longer.
  • Zappos has a great practice of promoting associates in small chunks of time rather than waiting two years. They have mini-goals set up the employee can achieve.  This enables the employee to achieve goals at a quicker pace but the end result is the same.

Very few companies are actually training people. They are expected to come equipped ready to work.  The mindset is “what are you bringing to the table”? However, it’s important to set the employee up for success on the front end with:

  • A solid job description and clear expectations
  • Training and development opportunities
  • A path to grow and develop with the organization

How have you handled being a lousy leader when you haven’t set clear performance goals and expectations up front? 

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