While education is a valuable, and often necessary, component toward furthering our career-related knowledge, there’s often no better teacher than hands-on experience when it comes to learning new skills and trades. Of course, becoming familiar with the essentials of your field in an educational environment is both advantageous and effective, there are certain nuances that are exclusively linked to on-the-job experience. Let’s briefly use the example of mechanics. You can read and memorize instructions on how to rebuild a motor, but you won’t truly understand what it’s like to fight a stripped or stubborn bolt until you encounter it for yourself.
The same holds true in the corporate work force. Your years of education are invaluable and your MBA, for instance, certainly lent a helpful hand in landing your position, yet when it comes to certain aspects of leadership, there are particular instances that must be encountered “in person” in order to truly be mastered.
1. Matching the right job to the right employee
It takes experiential skill to accurately “read” the abilities of job candidates, including current employees. In fact, simply because an employee is hired for one position, doesn’t mean they belong there indefinitely. Talents evolve, and it’s up to leaders to notice and act upon these changes. Knowing who to promote or transfer, and when, is a proficiency that is often best learned over time. Leaders with experiential knowledge know that even if an employee is excellent at what they do, there often comes a time when they must expand upon their functions. This also helps keep employees engaged by not becoming overly bored with redundant work tasks.
2. Knowing how to narrow the scope
Having prolific ideas is great, but attempting to implement too many at once can often result in failure. Imagination and eagerness to expand and improve upon the status-quo are wonderful traits, but if you’re not careful, you’ll have too many projects going on at the same time, which can be overwhelming to you as well as your team. As time passes, seasoned leaders learn to ascertain and implement only the most promising, applicable, and imperative plans, without spreading their resources too thinly.
3. Letting go of the reins
If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, right? Well, not necessarily. Ask any employee from any company and they’ll likely tell you they do not like to be micromanaged. Not only is it counterproductive, it undermines the confidence of the staff, even creating an uncomfortable work culture. You’ve hired your staff, trained them properly; now let them do what you’ve hired them to do.
4. Fairly implementing employee suggestions
Leaders should always encourage employees to share their ideas and suggestions; and moreover, be receptive to those with the potential to increase productivity. However, a common mistake of many employers is to constantly assign the tasks associated with the respective idea to the employee who originally conceived the plan. The problem with this is that over time, employees may stop sharing their suggestions due to an increased workload with each new idea accepted and implemented.
5. Basing decisions on more than just facts and figures
Regardless of what research shows and data implies it is important to look beyond statistics when seeking answers. For example, asking your current nine-to-five employees to work an extra night shift may look good on paper, and even enhance overall productivity. However, it may also cost the company valuable resources as well as employees whose lives are disrupted so much by the schedule change and added workload that they seek employment elsewhere. Employee morale is essential to a successful working environment; the more content your employees are, the more productive the company will be as a whole.
While these competencies are best learned through practice, leaders who are new to their directive roles should not despair. In addition to experience, an open mind is also crucial to successful leadership. An individual just starting out in a supervisory position, who is aware and in tune with the needs of their employees and the organization for which they work, will find it much easier to become skilled at the less obvious elements of leadership.
Further Reading: Six Ways Business Leaders Can Make a Great First Impression
Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200