10 Ways to Groom Your Employees into Leaders

If you intend to grow your small business, you're not going to be able run it alone. Make sure you grow leaders as you grow your profits.
Faith in Focus Columnist, The News & Observer Publishing Company
November 09, 2012

You're not interested in having your small business hit a dead end. You have big plans for the future and the team that is taking you there.

That's why it pays to invest in your future and cultivate team-leadership skills.

1.Invest in good people. A simple place to start is by investing in top talent. Pay fair and competitive wages to the people you envision as future leaders of your company. You don't want to begin investing additional resources in them only to have them skip away to a competitor offering a few more dollars.

2.Recognize good employees. Develop in your future leaders the pride that comes from being acknowledged for a job well done. That not only builds morale, it creates a culture that teaches future managers that this is a workplace that appreciates hard work.

"My personal philosophy is our staff deserve the same level of care, understanding and service that our customers receive," says Eric Bryant, director of Gnosis Media Group. "If we invest as much as possible in our staff then we are investing in our clients and our long-term success," Bryant says.

He says he offers unexpected bonuses and gift cards to show appreciation for effort and performance.

3.Teach time management. Since there will never be more than 24 hours in any given day, mastering time management is a key to developing team-leadership skills.

Help your future team leaders by investing in the products and the training that will help them organize and maximize the time spent working each day.

Whether it's software, mobile apps, seminars or one-on-one coaching, developing time-management skills in future leaders will pay off when projects are managed effectively and completed on time.

4.Invest in training and development. Don't hesitate to invest in the education of your future leaders.

"Subsidizing, partially or in its entirety, various degrees and certifications employees can take, with a written agreement that they will stay with the company for a certain period of time," is a recommendation from Paula Thorby, an HR consultant.

In addition to paying for formal education and training, Thorby has other suggestions for encouraging professional development that require only an investment of your time.

She recommends pulling together a monthly newsletter of industry-related events, meetings of professional groups and associations, and even distributing whitepapers that increase the professional connections and knowledge base of developing leaders.

5.Encourage volunteer service. Employees heading up volunteer projects are refining their team leadership skills while giving back to the community.

At LeadJen, a B2B sales consulting firm, each staff member has the opportunity to pitch to the rest of the workforce a worthy community service project.

The staff votes on the winner, and the employee who suggested the project manages it from top to bottom. That is management experience with no profit or loss risk to the company.

6.Make franchising affordable. Sometimes, it takes a straight-up cash investment to build the workforce for tomorrow.

William Johnson, CEO of Vivo Pools, recognizes that not every good leader that comes along has access to the capital needed to start a franchise.

That's why Johnson offers to fund the start-up costs of potential franchisees–a value of $25,0000.

7.Keep them well. As a business owner, you have an interest in the well-being of your staff. Offering wellness programs and subsidizing gym memberships requires a small investment to let your leadership team know you are interested in their health.

Something as simple as designating an hour a day as time for running, walking or hitting the gym creates a culture that places a value on a healthy workforce.

You just might need to figure out where to put the showers.

8.Share in success. You'll develop your team leaders if they know they are rewarded as stakeholders in your business.

According to the just-released  list of Great Places to Work Best Small and Medium Workplaces, most of the recognized companies offer some form of additional cash compensation to employees whether through employee stock ownership plans, automatic 401k investments or profit sharing programs.

Team leaders will be more likely to develop their skills knowing they are sharing in a piece of the pie.

9.Be Flexible. Make the workplace a flexible place for employees while they are developing team leadership skills. 

Moving to the cloud affords mobility for all. Accepting work-from-home schedules makes it easier for employees to manage a work/life balance and develop into leaders for the long haul. 

Invest in the smartphones, tablets and technology that make employees more portable and more efficient.

10.Lead by example. This won't actually cost you a dime, but you'll be paid back ten-fold. Be a model leader for your employees. Be professional, be decisive, be ethical, be supportive and treat employees well. The team leadership skills you want to see in your workforce should be the same ones they see in you every single day.

How have you groomed your top-performing employees into leaders at your business?

Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That's why this bio is so brief! Carla blogs viaContently.com.


Faith in Focus Columnist, The News & Observer Publishing Company