Whether it is clearly defined or not, workplace culture is always being developed. Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher once said, “Leading an organization is as much about soul as it is about systems. Effective leadership finds its source in understanding.”
As your organization draws closer to understanding its soul, ask yourself this question: “Are our leaders willing to work themselves out of a job?” If the answer is no, then it may be time to face the reality that your leadership pipeline is at risk. If the environment has become one in which your leaders are working with the goal of holding on to their positions rather than investing in growth and really developing the next generation of leaders, they may not be in a position to advance their capabilities and/or the company’s strategic priorities. Our willingness to outgrow our roles and assume greater responsibilities – or potentially lose our jobs for not developing a succession of capable leaders – is always a choice.
As leaders we must be willing to let go of what’s comfortable to help our organization rise to the next level. Climbing to a higher level (or laterally to assume increased risk or challenge) isn’t easy. It takes effort, and it will require making sacrifices.
There are many reasons why busy leaders fail to develop people. The primary reason is that it’s hard work. We’ve all heard stories of when investments in others didn’t turn out well. Maybe you yourself have invested heavily in someone only to see that individual leave and
use his skills at another organization. That’s a risk we choose to take toward the goal of cultivating a thriving workplace.
As leaders, do you want a productive environment or a growth-oriented workplace? Both can yield favorable outcomes. However, a productive work environment tends to stay just that, productive. People’s potential remains at a level that will simply produce results rather than attain higher levels of performance and generate outcomes that deliver customer “wow,” which stems from unique talents, motivations, and experiences that expand capabilities.
The choice your workplace makes will determine whether you tap talent in a powerful way. If you find yourself in the “productive environment” category, the good news is you can make a choice to invest differently by making improvements to increase your workplace potential.
How can your workplace step forward? Consider the following:
- Confront the truth. Increase your organizational understanding by taking a hard look at where your top talent is today. Does it sufficiently represent the diverse people, customers, and stakeholders that you serve now and into the future? If not, how would you like to improve it?
- Build discipline. Develop a comprehensive strategy for advancing your diverse talent and challenging leaders, even if it’s uncomfortable initially, and begin to address key areas of development. Hold everyone accountable for advancing performance in this regard.
- Grow intentionally and work through insecurities. If you want your workplace to start reaching for the next level, begin removing any barriers that prevent people from doing great work and developing their talents. You might encounter some discomfort in other leaders across the organization who may be unwilling or unable to see the need for development. For leaders who may be afraid of being replaced or looking unfavorable, offer resources to work through those issues, including professional counseling if necessary. Maintaining a long-term focus can help you do the hard work and go the distance.
Remember that if you invest in others, they will never be the same again. And neither will you. We have the choice to make each day of our leadership a masterpiece – today and into the future.
Question: What choices are you looking forward to?
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©2011 All rights reserved. Judy White, SPHR, GPHR, HCS is the founder and president of The Infusion Group™. A trusted partner in creating new possibilities in talent management and workplace culture design to have a meaningful impact on people, businesses, and society. The Infusion Group™ brings together a portfolio of workplace services to achieve personalized business strategies for clients in the new world of work. For more information on achieving greater workplace potential, click here.