You Are The Active Ingredient

As a smart leader, you know that a huge part of organizational success lies with your people. Great strategies can be written but unless they’re executed well, they are worthless. Training plays a crucial part in shaping the right culture to support your strategy and it’s execution.

Regardless of the latest development trend, approach or methodology, there is one active ingredient, without which, training and learning become a mere formality, a ‘tick box’ activity – that active ingredient is You – The Leader.

More than any learning intervention, you are the most important and influential factor in shaping your organizational culture and the performance of your team. This is a tough concept to embrace, a bitter pill to swallow! But when you do, it is liberating.

It allows you to stop looking externally at the individual, blaming him or her, and instead, to look internally and to ask yourself ‘What am I doing as a leader, or not doing, that is stopping this person from reaching their full potential?’

That is not to say that the individual should not take responsibility for his/her own development and growth. Of course he/she must. In the same way, that is not to say that you abdicate your responsibility as a leader to get the best out of your people.

Your purposeful involvement, your mindful engagement and your genuine caring for the individual’s development and growth are the active ingredients, capable of changing training from just ‘the right thing to do’ to an activity with the potential to transform an individual.

Purposeful involvement requires you, as a leader, to take an active part in honest and courageous conversations about the individual’s performance and his/her development needs.

Such conversations can only become meaningful if you pay careful attention to his/her behavior, observing and listening.

Mindful engagement requires a genuine interest from you about the individual’s work, his/her performance, aspirations, anxieties and concerns. It requires you to truly understand his/her passions, talents, motivations and vulnerabilities.

Genuine care requires you to look at him/her as a whole human being and to look beyond the job role. It’s truly caring about all four dimensions of a person – the heart (social/emotional), mind (mental), body (physical) and soul (meaning).

As a leader you may say ‘What does social/emotional have to do with me?’

Social/emotional is not about being best buddies with every member of your team. It means that you, the leader, intentionally create an environment where people feel they belong, where they can feel safe and respected.

Likewise, as a leader, you can care for the ‘mind’ through providing real opportunities to stretch, learn and growth.

Caring for the ‘body’ can be as simple as ensuring that your team members have a break to eat their lunch in a quiet restful place.

It could also be ensuring that you don’t disturb them whilst they are on holiday!

The soul is not just about spirituality. The soul is also about finding meaning and purpose in our lives.

As a leader you play a huge role in helping the individual find meaning in his/her work, making connections between the work and his/her own vision or the organization’s mission.

The opportunities for involvement, engagement and care are endless for the smart leader wanting to get the best of their people.

You may fear that treating your people as whole persons may hinder your ability to ‘manage’ them. You may worry that people will take advantage of you.

I say, balance your courage with consideration.

Have the courage to hold meaningful conversations with your team member, stating your needs and expectations, whilst showing the consideration of truly understanding him/her and exploring ways to find win-win ways of working.

Be tough on the issues but remain gentle with the person.

You may think you are too busy to do all this. I would ask you ‘How much time and energy does it take to manage someone who is not delivering?’