Sometimes you have to climb above your destination to walk back down to it.
Today my family and I walked the fabulous Hall Walk from Polruan to Bodinnick. This is an amazing walk, that offers the most tremendous views of Fowey, Polruan and Readymoney Cove. The walk is so famed for it’s marvellous views that King Charles I favoured it when he visited the Royalist stronghold of Fowey during the civil war. On one such occasion on the 17th August 1644 King Charles was standing admiring the view. A Parliamentarian sniper had spotted him from across the river and taken aim. The King then moved on and a local fisherman stepped into his to place to admire the view. The unfortunate fisherman became the unwitting casualty and history was changed forever. As we all know the king would eventually meet his end at the hands of the Parliamentarians, but how different things might have been if he had taken in that marvellous view a little longer.
Well this got me thinking, along the Hall Walk there are many points where your destination is below you, but you have to climb in order to reach it. And this brought to mind a frequent conversation that I had with my team members in various roles over the years.
“…get ready for a role and wait for it to come up, don’t wait for a role to come up and then start to get ready.”
As leaders, when looking to promote from our organisation, we always want the best candidate for the job. Someone who is ready to step straight into the role and accept the increased responsibility. With this is mind I always gave my team members the same mantra, “get ready for a role and wait for it to come up, don’t wait for a role to come up and then start to get ready”. This is easy for me to say. However, such words are pretty meaningless unless backed up with some action.
As leaders we must always be working towards developing our team members to a point where they are ready for the next step. If a vacancy arises in your organisation and you have no one suitable to fill it, this is more a reflection on you than your team members. If you have a vacancy and no one internal suitable to fill it, you must ask yourself some questions. Start with, have I done everything I can in order to develop my team? This doesn’t mean funding training for people that request it. This also doesn’t mean taking someone under your wing and showing them how you do things. Developing your team means a whole host of activity that includes delegation, secondments, training, stretching project work and support on a personal level. This level of development isn’t applied only to those who request it, it is offered and delivered to all. Everyone in your team is worthy of development, even the ones who tell you they are keeping their head down until retirement. Why not extract more value from these people who have by far the most experience in your workforce? You will find they welcome the attention and support and deliver far more than you may have thought possible.
So many leaders wait for their team to ask for development or offer the odd course and think they have tried their best. Development is far, far more than this. And when should you develop your team? Well the obvious answer is always. However, everyone should be looking to move on before they have become the world expert in their current role.
If we consider our career path a Sigmoid curve, we should all be looking to move on before we have reached the top of the curve in our current role. This doesn’t mean that we move on before we become capable or high performing. It does, however, mean that we should all be looking to move on before we reach a point where we know absolutely everything about our role and all tasks and decisions are simply routine. When we reach this point we start a decline and we have two options, never move on or retrain to reach the next step.
However with continuous development we can jump off the curve at the ideal spot and move to our next role.
As leaders, it is our role to help our team members reach this point on the curve around the time an opportunity presents. No easy task! However, if we find this tricky, why do we so often leave it to our subordinates to sort it out for themselves? How do they know when an opportunity will arise, how do they know what budget is available for training and in some cases how do they know what they are really capable of? This is all in our role as leader.
So, before you find yourself with a vacancy and no one to promote into to it, start prepping your team now. Make sure they are ready to move on and help them climb well above their current role so that they can easily walk into the next one.