- Cut the jargon and communicate what 'leadership' means in your organisation. For some its strategic thinking or inspiring others, but in reality, if you ask junior level staff to 'be strategic', many will expect a pay rise. Junior staff are not hired to be strategic but should always be expected to think about the impact of their actions, take ownership, be proactive and work in a way that means other people want to work with them. Accessible language makes leadership more accessible.
- Expect and support networking, delegation and project management - staff at all levels should have the skills to network internally, to work with others to meet their objectives, delegate (up and down) to increase their capacity and innovate and learn through collaborating with others. Cross team working also helps to foster a true team environment where staff are invested in the success of their colleagues. Conflict and underperformance are much less likely in this environment and the skills staff learn are invaluable.
- Stop answering questions - coach more and set the expectation that staff will figure things out by themselves. Problem solving and analytical thinking are obvious key aspects of leadership that are difficult to test out at lower levers. If you find that, when you are there, your team come to you for the answers, stop giving them and let them struggle bit, take on more responsibility and learn to come to you for necessity rather than habit.
- Take time out of managing to mentor - share your experiences and have others learn from your mistakes, as you forge a mentoring relationship, as opposed to a straight boss/subordinate one, you will learn more about their real aspirations, their career goals and struggles. Things they wouldn't share with just a manager.
- Talk to staff as colleagues rather than subordinates - I have seen the most disaffected and uninterested individuals engage when they are asked for their opinion or involved in a decision. Helping staff to see that they are important, that their skills and specialisms are of value and that you need them to get things done boosts confidence and breaks down barriers.
KAREN AUSTIN, TEAM LEADER
I think most of us are now on board with the concept that all staff can be leaders and that this is a good thing. But the ability to lead is not something that comes overnight to most people and so, apart from setting a 'leadership' competency and asking 'leadership' based questions at interview, what else should we be doing to nurture our leaders?