It’s early in the new year and to get 2014 off to a good start, let’s refresh on the role of Leaders. Peter Drucker had a very useful definition of the role of Leaders saying that it was to:
- Deliver business results
- Build capability
- Reinforce the values of the organization
The first one is obvious (to most) but how to deliver business results? The answer leads to the next bullet; leaders achieve business results by building the capability of their people so they can build capable processes. The last bullet is a restriction on how leaders achieve business results saying that results won’t be achieved by doing things which are inconsistent with the values of the organization.
In summary, leaders need to build the capability of their people in order to achieve the desired results.
How do leaders actually do this?
The easiest and most common way is to send people to training classes. This may be easy but often people have no idea why they are in training class and even worse have no idea on how to apply the learning after they get back. After a week or two, people retain little of the training and their behavior hasn’t changed at all.
How should leaders build the capability of their team?
By acting in the role of “Leader as a Teacher”. That means using the Socratic approach and asking questions, giving team members problems to work on, and most importantly giving team member’s time to work on these problems. My colleague, Pascal Dennis, has written several excellent blogs on the Socratic approach so I won’t dwell on it here. It’s the next steps of practice and time to practice that really make the difference. Assigning practice problems that involve a repetition of already attained skills, and don’t stretch a team members skill level will do nothing to further build their capability. All that happens is a reinforcement of current skill levels. Assigning problems that stretch team members but occasionally lead to failure results in great learning. Leaders need to be conscious of this as they assign problems but also need to give team members time to complete the problems and learn from their failures along the way. Capability is built over time and building the capability of an organization takes a true long term commitment.
It’s not practice that makes perfect, rather its deliberate practice that stretches people combined with time to practice and learn from failure under that guidance of a leader/ coach that makes perfect.