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Ken Keller: How to grow others in your organization

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: November 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 18, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a very nice, young man for a key opening at one of my clients. During our conversation, he said something that made me really think.

He said, “As a leader, I need to be able to show my people what great looks like.”

I asked him what he meant by that and he replied, “It isn’t enough to tell people anymore, because not everyone ‘sees’ what I am telling them. I have to show them, in all the possible ways I know, what great is because that is my expectation of them.”

Jack Welch said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Whether leading one or thousands, the responsibility is the same. The gentleman I interviewed has it right, in his philosophy and in his understanding, of how others learn. But it takes more than showing people what great is, it is important to have a strategy to get each individual there.

I’d like to think that people working today want to learn, they want to grow and they want to be part of an organization that brings meaning to their life. They want what they do to have an impact.

I have come to believe through the last four or so years of a poor economy that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves, they want to work in a company that they are proud of, that is growing and going somewhere, an organization with a reputation for service and quality. They also want the organization to care about employees, customers and vendors.

Of course, people today want security and a steady paycheck. It is the responsibility of the leader to create an environment for these things, to the extent possible.

This is where the person who leads becomes critical. The leader sets the tone, provides the direction and should lead from the front, using carrot and stick, as appropriate, moving and motivating followers to a better future.

It starts with direction. This answers the where question, as in, where is the company headed?

Leaders often think of the future but don’t speak of it. If the future isn’t spoken about, employees wonder if there is one. If the future is so audacious, followers won’t believe it can happen. In this, the leader must let people know that there is a future but today’s work must be also be completed.

It continues with education. Education is different than training. Training refers to having people learn specific skills. But educating people means their minds are expanding to continue to learn.

Successful organizations today are learning organizations, places where people are not only sharpening skills but growing their minds for the betterment of themselves, the places they work and the customers that are served.

The third step in the process is accountability. This concept frightens leaders and followers alike, usually because holding people accountable is uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be. It shouldn’t be.

But it is.

The best leaders — the successful ones — set clear expectations and then regularly monitor progress toward goals. When corrective action is required, the leader does what is necessary.

The last step is to have appropriate rewards when goals are achieved. The best rewards involve recognition; many organizations fail to celebrate successes. Without celebrations, people will wonder why they should continue to work hard, be engaged and follow their leader.

It’s a simple system. The acronym is DEAR: direction, education, accountability and reward. When used, people follow their leaders and they will become leaders themselves, the ideal situation for any organization.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.



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