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May 03, 2007

Turning Employees Into Leaders

Posted in: Management,Work

Spend some time and read through this article from CIO Magazine.  It addresses an, until recently, ignored situation common in IT shops where senior management spends more time fighting fires or using employees as tools for solving technical issues instead of providing their staff with the tools to solve those same problems.  Using people to manage incidents is not the same as managing people.  Moreover, the article takes the appropriate angle of not preaching to management, but helping them realize that fostering leadership below simplifies their lives a great deal.

Executives must first cultivate leaders in their organization.  Susan Cramm, IT leadership expert and founder of ­Valuedance said, “There should be opportunities for people everywhere in IT to create a difference.  But you have to create a culture that enables people to step up and see leadership as their role.”

Too often employees quickly recognize the culture they’re a part of includes management shoving them under the bus in instances of failure.  The article states, “sanctioning leaders at all levels also means allowing for less than stellar results too. It’s all part of creating an open environment that encourages people to take leadership risks.”  Anything less and who would want to takes risks and stretch knowing there is not support from above?

What seems harder for management to grasp, is that it isn’t enough to just cultivate leaders.  You must empower them. 

“Empowerment means giving them the tools they need to succeed. Chief among those is a clear picture of IT’s mission and their role in it.”

“Empowering leaders also means giving them tools for success, from equipment to people.”

It is not enough to simply recognize potential leaders.  Management needs to provide opportunities.

Cramm said, “A good CIO will say, Let’s figure out what your capabilities are and understand how we can bring your unique gifts and talents to the organization.”

One method Cramm explains, I think is incredibly simple and yet often not used in providing opportunities.  “You don’t always have to manage through tasks and milestones.  With promising leaders, you can just create space in front of them. If it plays into their interests, they will fill up that space.”

Truly talented employees and high potentials don’t always like being the square peg forced through a circular hole.  This directly points to a manager being able to adapt to the desired coaching style of each employee.

Kudos to Stephanie Overby for a well-written article.

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