I’m a pushover for flowers, filling the house with plenty of them as long as the things we’ve planted around our yard keep blooming. My daughter knows this and gave me a lovely potted calla lily for Mother’s Day. It was something to plant outdoors eventually, but meanwhile, I wanted to enjoy it indoors for a while.
I gave this lovely plant some water and parked it on the dining-room table, happy as I caught sight of the lush foliage and the lovely deep purple flowers every time I walked into the room. Our house is well-shaded this time of year, and despite the windows nearby, I watched over the next week as the purple faded and the leaves stretched toward the little bit of sunlight that streams into the east window in the morning.
Drat. That lily was looking weak and unfulfilled. I scooped it up and put it outdoors on the deck where it could get the right amount of light to grow. In one day — yes, one day — the flowers had opened wide, and the purple color deepened. The leaves perked up, and the plant was even lovelier than it was when I received it.
It was flourishing and would soon be growing. It didn’t take much — just some time in the right conditions.
Likewise, those you lead need some of your time and the right conditions to flourish and grow. It really doesn’t take much; a small amount of time and the right attitude and support on your part.
A light touch to gently guide others in the ways of your organization. Most managers will tell you that they have smart people who work for them. If this is true for you, then it doesn’t take a heavy hand to manage them. As long as they understand the “what” and the “why” of what needs to be done, you can relax and let them figure out how to get things done. Make sure they know that you are there to help them be successful when they need you and be sure to check in with them on a regular basis to gently recalibrate your guidance as needed.
Recognize opportunities that will help them to grow on a continual basis. Your best employees will be eager to have new experiences that help them to learn. Make sure you understand what motivates each of them, and help them to seek out stretch assignments, coursework, training or other opportunities that will keep them interested and up to date. The same is true if you have managers who report to you. How do you help them to become and sustain themselves as leaders? Your HR partner should be able to assist with ideas.
Encouragement for the good work they are doing and to achieve the potential you see in them. This kind of encouragement covers the bases for what they are doing today and what you see them as capable of doing tomorrow. Everyone needs it, even if you think they don’t; trust me, you won’t overdo it. Encouragement is to your employees like nourishment to the roots of plants is to the flowering process. It is foundational, providing the fuel needed for employees to blossom.
Coaching and feedback are generally different things, but both are needed. When have you coached your employees in their development? If done well, it will help them to self-correct, which allows you to give less corrective feedback to them over time. In the meantime, feedback is necessary in order for them to see and correct the things that you observe that they may not. Don’t avoid the tough messages, but deliver them with kindness and care.
Despite employees’ pleas for a bigger paycheck and better benefits, after their basic needs are met, what they really want is to flourish and grow. How will you help them to do that?
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a former corporate executive who has spent the past decade as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages large-scale corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.