Rites of Passage...Let them go to empower young leaders

At all stages of your business’ life cycle, you will be seeking out and relying on new found leaders. It’s the only way for growth and sustainability, for a consistent edge on innovation, and just some fresh blood within the leadership of the company. You must constantly be on the lookout for good, unique talent…talent with your kind of je ne sais quois.

Millennials’ trend is to stay at a company on average of 2.2 years and will move along unless they are challenged and/or promoted. GenX bosses tend to only start trusting Milennialls after they have put some time in. Here’s the thing, if you wait for your employees to “pay their dues”, you could be losing out on some very talented folk. I’m not saying reward without merit, but do be aware of your company’s future needs and start seeking those leaders out that your gut says have that gift. Millennials get beat up for "not earning" their way, but having that mindset as a boss or business owner only shows the dinosaur in you. Let it go...they are here, talented, and willing to produce and will go where they are inspired to do so.

Now, being new leaders they will find themselves maneuvering through some minefields they haven’t encountered yet in their career. Harvard Business Review discusses how “Most students of managers agree that the transition from employee to manager is one of the most challenging in the business”. There is the politics of peer resentment, handling GenX'ers as clients, and their own yet to be established self-confidence in their decision making. The best companies focus on developing their new leaders/future leaders. So, how do can we begin that in house?

  1. Look for talent/natural born leaders within the current team immediately. Those members that seem to do the right thing already, that when you think of someone you trust, you think of them. When you tell them “Use your best judgement”, you know that chances are very good that those words are all you need to say. This is how you begin to build layers of responsibility which will keep you very stable during the rough times.  
  2. Relinquish control. Start small if you need to, but make sure it happens. One, it’s just good sense. Gone are the days of you knowing every task at every level. Admirable yes, realistic…no. Peter Drucker predicted that the manager of the future would be one that “asks, not tells”. When you relinquish control it shows that you believe in your own preaching of “use your best judgement”. Make this start happening immediately. Unless you buy into them, they won’t buy into you either.
  3. Challenge them with tougher decisions that pushes them. What’s the worse that can happen? Typically, not much, and nothing that you as a leader typically can’t explain away. And if it’s an expensive mistake…well, you just spent that money on the best kind of training with real life experience. The right person will never make that mistake again, and will also have true understanding of it’s importance when teaching others. There is a story where an extremely talented, young software developer from IBM back in the company’s heyday made a $600,000 mistake. When asked what would be the fate of that poor guy, Thomas Watson scoffed…I just spent $600,000 training him, he’s not going anywhere! Hopefully, the worst that can happen for you is nowhere near IBM’s worst.
  4. Feedback, follow up, coach and counsel. New found leaders are still establishing their footing, so the prior steps are musts…but this 4th step is where the magic happens. This debriefing is the only way they are going to actually put it all together. The success it brought about or the challenge it unearthed. Whatever the result is, this part has to happen for the connection to be secured in their learning. Foundations are now solid, they are not based on uncertainties and/or misunderstandings. If you feel that feedback conversations are awkward or an inconvenience, most tend to be that up to the point of making the time for them and starting the conversation. The initial dread is pretty quickly dissapated and a healthy conversation can take place. They deserve a clear review of their actions, what went well, what didn’t, and what is the takeaway. They especially want to hear what you think. Make the time here.