One of the core responsibilities of a good leader is the ability to develop the skills and talents of the employees on their team. As an institution of higher education, we are fortunate to have many resources available to help develop our employees. However the supervisor is ultimately responsible for providing developmental coaching for his or her team. Follow these tips to help prepare your team members for success in their current roles and beyond.
Be encouraging when it comes to professional development. You highest performers are often not satisfied with their skills today and will be looking to develop beyond their current role. They can become leaders at SMU, but they will need your support. Remember, these are the team members who often have the most options for work elsewhere. Neglecting your high performers and their development may result in unwanted turnover.
Become familiar with what learning opportunities are offered within the University by clicking on links of interest on the right side of the page. Encourage your team members to take advantage of these opportunities if they fit with their developmental plan.
Create a Plan Together
Help them create a developmental plan and then support it. Get to know your team members! First seek to understand their strengths, interests, goals, weaknesses, and what's most important to them. Ask questions, listen, and observe them in action. Help them understand the competencies required for them to grow and/or be promoted. Be specific in describing what skills, behaviors, and knowledge will help them reach the next level. The developmental plan is essentially a roadmap and should include information about the competencies desired, the actions necessary to acquire the specific skills/knowledge, resources that will be required, and any target dates for completing the steps. As always, set a follow-up meeting to discuss whether or not the steps were completed and to assess progress together.
Support Their Network
Help them create a supportive network inside the SMU community as well as outside of SMU. Bring them to specific meetings in which you can introduce them to a work group and help them assimilate into the group by offering ideas on how they can participate in the group. Follow up with feedback on how well they performed within the group. Take them to outside professional group meetings that would support their development within the field. And yes, finally you can support them virutally as well by recommending online groups, blogs, and connections that would add talented people and information to their networking circles.
Help Them Stretch
Give your high potential employees "stretch" assignments which require they do something different from their normal routine. Getting an employee outside of his/her comfort zone is essential to building leadership skill. Encourage the employee to take intelligent risks in trying out new behaviors, but be sure you've established an environment in which mistakes are truly seen as an opportunity to learn.
Develop Your Own Resources
Get creative! Some schools and divisions have developed their own internal training and development opportunities to better serve the unique needs of their work roles. If your division or school doesn't offer internal training opportunities, then perhaps it's up to you to start that conversation.
Finally, take time to recognize your employees for work well done. We encourage you to provide recognition in a timely and specific manner, but also remember to use the performance review and merit increase process as opportunities to communicate your appreciation for excellent performance during the year.