Managing Employee Relationships: Developing Others and Providing a Path

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

One real barrier is resources. Most of us no longer have the resources in our organizations to hire a leader’s successor with enough time to properly train.  On rare occasions it is possible, but not likely in today’s environment.  Also, with the expense reduction pressures of most healthcare organizations, many “formal paths” of leadership have been eliminated or reduced so that current leaders are taking on more scope and reducing the number of formal leadership opportunities.  Individuals who may be interested in future leadership roles may think the future is bleak in these flat organizational structures.

Why is it important to do anyway?

When you believe in your organization and support the direction the culture is heading, it is a trustworthy leader’s stewardship obligation to play their part in helping that culture sustain for future generations. In organizationally “flat” companies this can be challenging but not impossible. However, it’s worth considering and the payback is huge.  The last thing you want is to lose individuals with leadership potential because a possible path is not clear.

How can you do it?

  1. Ask those you serve about their dreams and goals.  This is a conversation that you should have with your direct reports often.  This could be done during regular rounding or performance conversations.  Ask if their current job is satisfying.  Ask if there are tasks or projects they would like to take on out of the normal routine for growth opportunities.  Ask where they see themselves in the next few years and future.  Ask what skills and experiences they need to help them reach their goals. Just ask.
  2. Provide as many opportunities for varied skill development as possible.  Once you ask and have reflected on possibilities, you need to be prepared to deliver.  Working in partnership with your employee, share some of the possible development experiences or opportunities that exist within your department (but also outside of your area…that’s the hard part).  Decide on a realistic timeframe for different opportunities.  Explain very clearly that these are opportunities to lead from where they are and that there is no guaranteed leadership position at the end of the rainbow.  There is a risk that this potential leader may leave once you have provided these growth opportunities.  But in the “big picture” you’re helping shape the future of leadership…and that is worthwhile work.
  3. Lead anyone willing to the “water”.  Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  I try to look for the “spark” in anyone, regardless of their job title…and quite frankly, I pause when someone verbally tells me they want to be a “manager” or a “boss”.  Look beyond that…look at the person’s willingness to contribute regardless of their title.  But development is a two way process.  You can offer the “water” or the opportunities, but they must be willing to “drink”.  And leadership is not for everyone.

What are some examples of “paths” that were lit for you in your journey to leadership?

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