Growing Your People Hurts Sometimes. Do It Anyway.

by | Oct 13, 2023 | Organizational Health

As a leader, you have a full plate. You need to do your own work – all the while ensuring goals are met and bases are covered. Day-to-day responsibilities are heavy, and it takes additional bandwidth to truly invest in your team members.  

Having energy available to invest is critical when you’re creating a workforce that is ready, willing, and able. As an Energy-Inspired Leader, it’s your responsibility to develop people who can access these core capabilities, and to advance your team members’ capacity to perform.  

How Do You Grow Outstanding Team Members?  

As a leader, prioritize your wellbeing so you have the capacity to provide support and guidance to your team. Then, you can:  

  • Fuel and grow your people by ensuring they learn to work and respond under healthy challenge stress 
  • Guide your team members to break work into small wins, so they take on manageable responsibilities and build their confidence.  
  • Advocate for a healthy, sustainable workplace so they will stay engaged and have the bandwidth for continued growth.  
  • Nurture team members and ensure they understand the link between performance and recovery, so they spend more time in these states and less time feeling burned out or in survival mode.  

If you’re practicing Energy-Inspired Leadership, you can do all this and more – not perfectly, but in a way that supports your team members, building trust and connection. Leaders who are sustainably fueled by energy have the bandwidth to responsively listen to their team members, taking on the role of guide, mentor, and trusted colleague and transcending the traditional role of “boss.”  

What Happens When You Do Your Job Too Well?  

One of the best leaders I’ve ever worked under – a former senior executive at one of the nation’s largest media companies – said that it’s his job to grow people. He made a firm decision in his growth as a leader that he would have more success pulling people up rather than pushing them down so he can stay on top.   

Energy-Inspired Leaders pull people up, watch them grow, and provide guidance that empowers them to move forward. And then, sometimes, it’s time for them to move on.  

I’ve experienced this in my professional life as a leader, as well as in my personal life. I’ve seen talented employees move on, and I’ve recently sent a child off to college. In both instances, it’s bittersweet.  

You’re proud to see the person you’ve cultivated seek bigger and better things. At the same time, though, you may feel some pain over the changes – both emotionally and from a practical standpoint. Even when you’re happy for their success, the thought of trying to re-hire for their role or finding a way to manage their responsibilities can make you feel like, “What’s the point of investing in people when they just move on?”  

You keep growing them because it’s the right thing to do…for them and for you.  

Think back to the best leaders you’ve worked for. Were they like the leader I mentioned – looking for ways to lift people up and encourage their growth?  

How did you feel about working for a leader like that? You probably felt a sense of connection and loyalty that’s different from what you’d feel for your average leader or organization.  

When you become that Energy-Inspired Leader looking out for your people, you are the one who gains that connection with your people. You create an atmosphere of trust and growth within your team.  

You become a person of influence – one for whom people want to work and perform. You grow your visibility and become a person others listen to and seek out for guidance.  

You also develop an environment where people know they can thrive and do their best work. You see this clearly in the world of sports where outstanding coaches have a coaching tree filled with their equally talented proteges. NBA coach Gregg Popovich has a coaching tree that’s more like a forest – Steve Kerr, Mike Budenholzer and many others with their own successful coaching careers count him as a mentor.  

Leaders like Pop develop people. As you continue to grow talented professionals, yes, sometimes they move on. When they do, you continue to expand your network of influence. People remember leaders who took time to grow them, connect with them, and treat them like they matter. As you develop them, you’re creating a network outside your organization, a network of people who know what you can do, value you, and will actively seek future opportunities to work with you and see you succeed.  

When you take these steps as an Energy-Inspired Leader, you aren’t doing them because you’re self-serving, because you think you’ll earn a promotion if you can  coach up your team to a high enough level.  

You do it because it’s the right thing to do. You may still reap the benefits, but that’s because the positive energy you’re investing is contagious and because, through your development of others, you become someone people want to work for and someone people want to listen to.  

Keep Growing and Going 

Energy-Inspired Leaders have a lofty task before them: make themselves and their people so good that they just keep growing and earning additional opportunities to prove themselves.  

Give yourself a chance as a leader to keep growing your people and to watch where they go. Sometimes they may grow beyond your team and into a new opportunity. In the moment that you watch them go, you’ll probably feel joy mixed with a little sadness, but keep doing it anyway. As you move them forward, chances are the steps you’re taking as a leader will continue to propel you forward as well.  

And, when you ask yourself about the key qualities of a leader you admire and respect…it’s likely you will think of an Energy-Inspired leader. We remember them because of their selfless influence and their lasting impact in our lives. 

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