No time to develop your team? No problem. Believe it or not, the solution lies in an unlikely place: your calendar.
Yes, that bottomless pit of overbookings can also be a source of consistent development for your team. Now, I’m not suggesting you identify non-existent “blocks of time”; instead, try taking a few minutes at the start of each day or work week to identify common, normal-course-of-business activities that offer opportunities to demonstrate key leadership competencies, provide visibility, broaden professional networks, and increase critical-thinking and problem-solving capabilities.
Consider these possibilities:
- Upcoming Meetings: Bringing direct reports along to meetings — or sending them in your place — is nothing new; however, managers often fail to be intentional about tying it to development. Instead of simply getting a download on the meeting afterwards, consider:
- What, specifically, could they observe that ties to leadership competencies and behaviors? For instance, should they watch for how leaders present information, share opinions and insights, influence or persuade others, drive decision-making or build consensus?
- Should they observe the most senior person to better understand that person’s style, priorities and how to successfully present to that leader in the future?
- Which leader(s) might they observe because of a certain skill or competency in which the leader(s) excels…perhaps in an area of improvement for the employee?
- How might they witness their own strengths “in action” at a more senior level?
- What questions can you ask them shortly following the meeting to elicit their takeaways and further their growth, i.e., “What did you get out of the meeting that could help in your own development or that of your direct reports?”
- Senior Management Interactions: Your peers and other leaders often work in areas of interest or related to your team’s areas of responsibility. Or they may have a particular expertise that could benefit one or more people on your team. With this in mind:
- With which peers/leaders will you be interacting, and who on your team could benefit from being part of that interaction or future interactions?
- If another leader will be stopping by your office (or vice-versa), who could benefit from spot mentoring (on a particular issue or challenge) from that colleague in the future, and how can you make a quick introduction to connect them?
- What introductions could you make to “attach names to faces,” particularly where you’ve shared an individual’s accomplishments with other leaders who may not be as familiar with that person?
- Impromptu Problem-solving Discussions: When someone on your team comes to you for help, it’s easy to jump in and problem-solve. If there’s one right answer, by all means, jump in. Otherwise, solving their problem robs them of an opportunity to build their own critical thinking and problem-solving skills. So instead of asking, “How can I help?” encourage them to generate and explore options on their own first by asking:
- “What are your thoughts?”
- “What might you try?”
- “What might someone else observing the situation say or do?”
- “Which of these options will you pursue?”
Remember, the easiest way to make development happen every day is to find opportunities in the everyday. You’ll soon find yourself building a habit of developing your team…and building a reputation as a leader who develops future leaders.