Don't Restrain It, Nurture It

I love it when I meet individuals who are intensely focused on their goals and have a plan for their success. In many cases, their focus is so unmovable and unshakable that they won't let anything get in their way. On the downside, however, one major character flaw that many of these individuals share is that they try to do too much on their own. Because they feel that they need to control every aspect of their quest, they struggle with delegation. In many cases they don't believe that, with a little direction and development time, others might be capable of doing it better, or at least just as well as they do.

I believe that there are two extremely important lessons that, once learned, will turn a good leader into a great one. Great leaders first and foremost hire talent that is sharper than they are themselves. A great leader will also develop the talent of those individuals in their organization that have the potential to become strong leaders themselves.

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Admittedly, hiring someone that might be sharper than you are takes confidence. Many organizational leaders readily buy in to sourcing talent where they may have gaps, but it requires a greater level of self-assuredness to hire individuals who may have the skills to replace you.

Remove the fear and become a great coach! There is already a high probability that individuals on your team demonstrate superior skills to yours in one or more areas. Why not help them improve upon that skill and assist them in becoming more proficient in a couple other areas? If you do, you certainly have a lot more to gain than lose.

I recall that one of the most talented individuals I sourced during my career worked as a technical service representative in a new organization that I was leading. This young man had been passed over for promotions numerous times before because his obvious potential intimidated some of the hiring managers above him. Within a two-year span, I promoted him three times to lead various teams within my organization. He often would let me know that he had his eyes on my career path and wanted to achieve a similar success. Instead of getting fearful, I relished the fact that I knew I had a winner who would always outperform my expectations. Talk about low-hanging fruit! This was more than 10 years ago and, today, this young man is living his dreams as a leader in a Fortune 500 organization.

Remove the restraints and capture the potential!

One of the most common restraints I observe typically occurs during goal-setting. As leaders, we often establish goals for our teams based on the objectives we want to achieve. We do this without considering the potential that we might be able to harness based on the skills of our team members. Inherent in this type of restraint is a failure to understand the scope of what is achievable. Your team member's goals might actually be higher than your own. Throughout my corporate career, my goal as a coach was to reap the maximum potential from every team member. I knew that the only way I was going to be successful was to make sure I understood what my team member's own short and long-term objectives were. Once I grasped that part of the equation, it was simply a matter of connecting their goals back to the overall objectives for performance.

There are many dimensions to team performance, but here is a five-step process that focuses on maximizing goal achievement after you have established your base goal:

1. Review with each team member his or her personal goals for the project.

2. If they happen to achieve their personal goals, determine if the delta is higher or lower than the goal you establish.

3. If it is lower, determine what coaching you can provide to fill the gap, and whether or not you believe that you can summon the necessary skills to fill the gap from your team member. Adjust your goal higher or lower, based on your confidence in your coaching abilities.

4. If your delta is higher, ask yourself what coaching can you provide that would allow you to adjust your goal even higher? Adjust your goal higher.

5. Determine what the total potential opportunity would be if everything worked optimally. Adjust the goal upward based on your intuition, experience and capability of ensuring that all the stars will align.

Assessments are necessary of course and I personally support using tools to understand where the gaps in required job skills may be, but great coaches are intuitive coaches who often have a sixth sense about individuals who have the desire to excel. If your team member is clear in what they want to achieve for themselves, it is usually a good sign that they are willing to put forth the effort necessary to reach an even higher destination. Don't stop them, even if it takes you beyond where you might be today, and into some unfamiliar territory. It will be a growth experience for both of you!

Inspired by the numerous teambuilding sessions I perform each year, I'm excited to launch the Robert Van Arlen Team Development Series in partnership with Illuma Studios, in Scottsdale, Arizona. This facility provides an opportunity for up to 20 participants (from the same organization) to experience a program that drives higher performance, using a creative process that is captured on video as a tool for continuous development. Participants will have the opportunity to create a musical masterpiece through learning, participating and directing teams of musicians and engineers who assist in the creation of the final project. During this full day event, participants will learn specific techniques for developing team cohesion and collaboration. Upon returning to their organization, the participant will be equipped with the skills necessary to achieve excellence through motivating and inspiring not only themselves, but their team members as well.

Don't Restrain It, Nurture It

Robert Van Arlen is considered one of the most versatile, energetic and effective speakers on the planet. His experience as a successful Fortune 500 executive ensures that the audience will receive...

A Motivational Experience That Lasts!

Robert Van Arlen is an expert in transforming organizational culture through a process called "Focused Synergy." Born in Honolulu, the former Fortune 500 executive built a reputation during his 15 year career of changing the culture of his teams from whiners to winners.

Robert gained international experience as the leader of the Canadian sales, service and technical support divisions of CCH Limited and its French counterpart CCH FM. At the young age of 28, Robert was assigned to lead a division of veteran sales professionals that were not performing. Within a few months, Robert had them aligned to the vision of being the top sales division in the company. His team accomplished their goal. He worked closely with the other international divisions based in the UK and Australia.