Want to be Great? Let your team members soar

releasing dove

Sid Daniels is an assistant Vice President for a company that employs 7,000 people nationwide. He has two veteran deputies below him who have proved their competence over a decade of service, providing IT solutions to local businesses as well as internally. Yet Sid, while using his deputies to cover for him in explaining technical information at board meetings, fails to promote either of them, whether by raise or by public affirmation.

Levita Benoit runs a growing business consulting firm on Chicago’s South Side. She started the company in her home, going from doing everything from securing clients to making her own brochures, to hiring a staff of five.  As the business grew, instead of having a bookkeeper she hired a certified CPA as her financial manager. The part-time virtual assistant job is now filled by a bona-fide Administrative Assistant. The staff of five has grown to 30, yet to their great frustration, the new managers’ scope of authority has not grown past that of the original, tightly managed crew.

Ravi started with a well-known non-profit that boasts a staff of 50 with another 100 hundred volunteers serving two thousand needy people each year. He has exceeding expectations in his role as volunteer manager for ten years in a row, creating innovative programs benefiting their service consumers and raising up volunteers as leaders. The new Executive Director is less than seasoned in his role and tried to squeeze Ravi out by first refusing his requests for merit pay (even with his salary frozen the last five years); then by putting him under newer managers when he used to report to the Director, and finally by reducing his responsibilities. While the Board did not understand this defacto demotion, they stood by as Ravi grew despondent and eventually quit. He is now the partner in a firm that – guess what – helps non-profit managers.

The two primary reasons bosses don’t acknowledge and reward their star players:

  • Their own insecurity (she/he might out-shine me!) or,
  • They are “infected” with the disease of micromanagement, a fear- and control-driven malady that is one of the chief complaints of disgruntled employees everywhere.

People who are demoralized quit when they are not rewarded for their hard work

Ben, one of the  deputies referred to above said in an interview that Sid once said to him, “I value the loyalty of my staff to the Department” to which Ben replied, “My loyalty isn’t to you, it’s to the company“.

As you can imagine, both deputies eventually suffered a loss of morale, reducing the quality of their work and one has now retired, while the other went to a similar company in a position with significantly higher pay and prestige.

You have a greater chance of retaining quality employees when they can see reward for their labor and are incentivized. Dragging your feet about raises or juicy assignments can backfire big time.

Business suffers when you don’t promote from within

Sid Daniels’ IT department took a hit losing two of its best minds and ended up outsourcing significant technical functions, adding a level of red tape for new process approvals. While he kept his salary, he was eventually demoted to a position with less responsibility. Short-sightedness on Sid’s part had a negative impact on his department and the whole company.

Those companies that regularly promote from within always have a leadership pipeline with superstars in the wings when high level positions need filling. These companies, according to business researcher and author Jim Collins, are also the ones standing the best chance of becoming great for the long haul.

Smart people need to grow

Potential is realized when people are put in situations that demand greater challenges than their present positions. Otherwise potential remains latent. Employees may stagnate in their roles or leave.

On a more global scale, from industries to nations, there is “brain drain” (or “human capital flight) when brilliant, talented workers leave for better pay or work conditions. Sometimes the pay isn’t even better but they feel recognized, appreciated, and they feel can learn something new and test the limits of their capability.

It’s just the right thing to do

“Let my ceiling be your floor” is one of my favorite philosophies as a leader and mentor. Giving people greater authority and creative license to do their best work is its own reward. Even if these employees eventually leave and do even greater things with other companies, it’s a feather in your cap. It also creates an apprentice culture within your organization.

Take pleasure that under your tutelage the world has been blessed with another dynamo as a leader, innovator, or game-changer. Let them go!

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