I have spoken with many leaders who are responsible for managing people. Most of them feel a sense of responsibility for creating a professional work environment where their people can succeed. While this is clearly important, I feel this is nowhere near enough.
I feel that our responsibility as leaders is to create a culture where people can not only thrive, but can grow and develop to their greatest potential. I've always felt passionately that I owed my people more than paying them every two weeks. I owed them the opportunity to grow as professionals while they were a part of my team. Here, in my opinion, is the big question a leader needs to be able to answer … “Are my people better off for having worked with me?”
This question must be answered across many variables.
First, what are you doing to develop your people? Are you creating formal development plans that not only address the skills and competencies that your people need to develop to succeed in their current roles, but are you also developing them so that they can be considered for greater leadership roles down the pike? Some people go so far as to identify areas of competency that their people need to focus on. But do you work with them to develop a plan of action to bridge these perceived gaps? Do you check in with them quarterly to see how things are progressing, and how you can personally help to impact their growth and development?
What about exposure within the organization? Are you creating opportunities for your people to get involved in working with key leaders across your corporation? Are you exposing them to opportunities to participate on cross-functional teams that will give them the experience of working with other people from parts of the business that they normally wouldn’t have insight into? Are you allowing them to volunteer for task forces that help to solve problems or address issues outside of their functional responsibilities?
How about mentoring? Do you help them seek out senior people in your organization who can help them develop higher level leadership capabilities? Are you allowing them to “shadow” people in other functional parts of IT so that they learn more about technologies and areas outside of their core competencies? Have you created a culture of innovation that allows then to try new things, take prudent risks, and “fail” without concern of the stigmas or repercussions that can sometimes come along with perceived “failures”? Are you allowing them to grow by pushing decision-making down to the lowest reasonable level, and empowering them to make decisions? Are they being held accountable for results, but not being empowered to deliver those results?
You can never know how long a person will wind up being in your employ. But whether it is a year or 10 years, they should be able to leave better off for having worked with you. They should have learned about being a great leader from watching you model appropriate behaviors, and feel that they are a more marketable, valuable and savvy professional from being a part of your team during their tenure. Otherwise, they are simply trading years for dollars…and that’s not in anyone’s best interest.
Larry Bonfante is an award-winning CIO with 35 years of experience in the IT industry. He most recently served as CIO of the USTA. As the founder of CIO Bench Coach, he has served as an executive coach and trusted adviser to executives at some of the most prestigious companies in the world. You can contact him on email at Larry@ciobenchcoach.com and follow him on Twitter at @bonfante.