First a quote: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
While working with executive coaching clients over the years, I have frequently been surprised by an almost secret desire, held by some, to hoard key aspects of their position and responsibilities including information, knowledge, authority and power. Their premise seemed to be that by holding these aspects of their job, close to the vest, they were perceived, by others, to be more powerful and more important. They also appeared to feel a stronger sense of, what I would describe as, a false sense of job security. It was as if their unstated goal was to become indispensable in their role.
I once had a senior manager tell me it was important she not share too much information with her team of direct reports. When I inquired as to why, she explained her position might be eliminated if her team knew so much they no longer needed her as a manager.
It is probably true that somewhere out in this great big world there is a unique company, function or department, with a corresponding set of unique circumstances, where being indispensable is a good thing. My argument here is: more often than not, becoming indispensable in your role is often bad for your career, assuming you are seeking growth, advancement and upward mobility.
While it may be difficult to terminate a person who has made themselves indispensable, it is also very difficult to promote that same person. Being perceived as indispensable is like a double-edged sword that cuts deeply in both directions.
Think about this for a minute. If a company has a pool of three candidates for one open position, all with requisite skills and abilities, and only one of the three has been actively developing his/her team of respective members for growth and development, which of the three would you promote? All things being equal, I’m going to promote the person who is doing their part to grow other leaders, helping others prepare for advancement and helping the organization expand its capacity for success.
If you’re looking for upward mobility in your organization, and you’re already leading a team of people, the place to begin is the training, growth and development of not only your replacement, but your entire team. When competing for a promotion, the candidate who has helped prepare someone to “backfill” their former position has a tremendous advantage over candidates who haven’t.
Bottom line: you need to make your team’s growth and development a priority on your weekly “to do list”.
This means you will need to know your people well; their career goals and aspirations, their ambitions, strengths, weaknesses and fears. Who, with a little guidance and training, could someday backfill your role when it is your turn to move up, or onward, in your career? In most cases, you don’t need to do this alone. If possible, and available, partner with your organization’s human resource professionals to create a growth plan for each person on your team.
My last piece of advice on this topic: work to establish your reputation as a “builder of people”. Years from now you will be glad you did!
Harvey S. Firestone said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
How will you lead differently, or better, this week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”