Opportunities to Grow

The Pursuit of Happiness…

There’s one important thing we’ll have to do if we want to have any hope of creating a succession plan where the right people are in the right seats on our bus… We’ve got to know our team; I mean really know them! We need to understand how we can communicate with them most effectively, we need to know what tasks they get the most fulfillment from, and we’ll even do well to know what drives them to get out of bed each morning… Then we need to do every possible thing within our power to connect each of those things with the vision we have for where our team members fit in that succession plan!

As we started down this path, I shared a few statistics showing that many folks (especially millennials) place more value on opportunities for growth and development than they do on salary alone. I’ll take that one step farther and say that the last time I made a career move for a higher wage was when I was 19 years old; almost 27 years ago! Every new role I’ve taken on since has been far more about the opportunity it would provide me for future growth and development - and I’m not even a millennial!

Close to 250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson actually emphasized the importance of opportunity when he listed the pursuit of happiness as one of the unalienable rights we’re each endowed with by our Creator. With that being such a critical piece in the foundation of our great nation, should we even be surprised that close to 80% of the workforce in any given organization is less than actively engaged? As it did two and a half centuries ago, opportunity does indeed still trump immediate income! Don’t get me wrong here… We each need to earn a living, but when that’s the only thing we’re showing up for we often have an emptiness that needs filled..

That’s where we, as leaders, can make a significant impact in the lives of our team members - and in building strategic succession plans for our organizations! Knowing each of those things I listed earlier about each of our team members makes that possible. This is where we can get really intentional about providing opportunities for growth - opportunities for the pursuit of happiness - for our team members!

Before we look at how we can best learn each of those things about our team members though, we need to develop a clear understanding that growth in our organizations can never come through a one-size-fits-all approach. The best succession plans include various career paths so we can provide our great team members with opportunities to thrive in the fit that’s best for them…

No Good Deed…

Near the end of a recent lesson in our Leading At The Next Level program, I shared something I had found in a Bloomberg.com article that ties right in with what the point I just referenced; career advancement is not a one-size-fits-all proposition!

Certain jobs attract people with predictable personalities. Office managers tend to be outgoing, detail-oriented, and respectful of authority, as do fitness instructors, flight attendants, and beauticians. Industrial designers, creative directors, and executive producers tend to be excellent listeners, with an ability to understand the needs and feelings of others.

In fact, personality correlates so tightly with jobs that it may affect job choices more than skills, experience, or ability, according to a group of researchers based in Australia. The team who published those findings in 2019 is now back with another revelation: aligning occupation with personality leads to happiness and engagement.

Cindy and I have been able to provide some great tools for leaders to use within their teams to really dive into understanding this for each individual they’re working to develop, and we’ll work through the specifics of those tools soon… For now though, let’s get straight to the point that’s missed far too often by organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, when they have someone showing up consistently and doing outstanding work. Let’s face it, we all get excited when someone new joins our team and begins to excel. A fairly natural response is to give them more responsibility…

I know you’re tracking with me here! You’ve seen this happen in your church or civic organization, and I’m quite certain you’ve experienced this in your work! It’s so refreshing to have someone else join the team who’s willing to accept responsibility that we can't help offering them more… Sometimes that’s just fine, but there are times where this can do as much to squash their enthusiasm or even push them away as it does to get them even more engaged. Yes, they’ve been willing to help the organization leading up that point but are we really helping them by giving them more? Sometimes this comes across as no good deed going unpunished

In short, maybe this isn’t helping them at all! This is where it’s so important for us, as leaders, to learn as much about our team members as we can - as quickly as possible. When we know their dreams and goals, the things they genuinely get excited about, we can begin developing some direction for how we can help them move toward those things. When we understand which tasks give them energy and which can suck the life right out of them, we can be proactive in utilizing their strengths. And when we understand just how they process information, we can adapt our communication so that we’re speaking their language and earning their engagement in each part of the process.

Some folks are driven to climb the ladder as quickly as they possibly can while others get fulfillment from providing great support to the team around them. If we try to use the same approach with both, we’re very likely to push one of them away! When we can offer examples of career pathways that line up with each team members’ goals and desires, we have a much better chance of creating a succession plan that actually comes to fruition - rather than one that looks good on paper but needs to be changed every few months because someone leaves…

Finding the Right Path

If we really want to be sure we’re providing our team members with career advancement opportunities, in an actual pursuit of happiness, rather than making them feel like no good deed goes unpunished by promoting them into a role that they have no interest in, we’d better be intention about knowing what makes them tick!

 A while back in our Leading At The Next Level program, I shared a lesson called How to Make Sure Working for You Doesn’t Suck where I referenced something I learned from Pat Lencioni’s book The Truth About Employee Engagement regarding the importance of getting to know as much as we can about each individual on our team. Like so many things we read or hear from folks like John Maxwell or Pat Lencioni, this was something I had been doing intuitively for years but reading it in that book gave me a framework for being intentional about it! A significant piece of learning what makes someone tick is getting to know more about them than just their name, rank, and serial number. (Do people even have serial numbers???) When we’re willing to invest the time to know someone’s hobbies, a bit about their family, as well as some of the things they would like to achieve in life, we have a much better idea of what makes them tick - but we’re also showing that we value them!

Let’s be clear on this point: there’s no better way of doing this than having a conversation with them… Once we’ve developed that foundation, there are a couple of really solid tools that will help us identify the types of work that will provide them with the most fulfillment over the long haul and how we can be most effective as we share any given message with them.

 I’ve recently become a Pat Lencioni nerd all over again as Cindy and I worked through the process of becoming authorized to use his Working Genius assessments and material with the clients we serve. The beauty we’ve found in this particular tool lies in how quickly it allows us to differentiate the tasks that fill someone’s tank from the ones they can do well but don’t really get energy from and the ones that just drain the life right out of them. Understanding this is critical as we’re developing a business succession plan but it’s just as important if we want to genuinely help our team members achieve their goals and dreams!

As powerful as that can be for developing a succession plan or identifying examples of career pathways for someone, we’ll still miss the mark if they’re not receiving the message we’re attempting to send. And that can be a show-stopper when it comes to getting them into the right seat - or even keeping them on our bus! This is where that Platinum Rule I reference so frequently comes into play. What we’ve learned through the DISC Model of Human Behavior, and have now helped dozens of organizations implement throughout their workforce, is also fairly intuitive. But having a practical, inexpensive tool that can be applied right away makes getting measurable results so much simpler! When we understand someone’s complete communication style blend and how that can change when they’re under stress, or we just learn to recognize communication styles quickly in conversation, we can make far better connections by adapting the message we need to share so that it serves our team members’ individual needs!

Hear me loud and clear here though… As powerful as both of those tools are individually, and how much more effective we can be when we combine them, we cannot skimp on the time we invest in learning to know each team member! But once we’ve done that work and we put those tools into practice, we can move our focus to helping them reach their goals and building toward our ideal succession plan - so that’s where we’ll pick up next time…