How capacity building in individuals helps your business build leaders
Entrepreneur and CEO Robert Glazer was stumped. He had an emerging talent development problem that threatened to jeapordise his company’s growth and culture.
His aptly-named company Acceleration Partners was doubling in size every 2.5 years but he noticed that an increasingly large group of employees was struggling to keep pace.
Put simply, they weren’t growing as fast as the company.
As his company rapidly grew from 7 to 300 employees, Robert knew he needed executive level talent as well as individual contributors.
The leader's dilemma
Robert had to choose: Pick the relatively new employee who is talented but not ready to step up to director level? Hire a director above them? Transition them out? Promote them when they’re not ready?
Robert knew promoting from within is cheaper, and can lead to exceptional results, but it is also in danger of leading to poor outcomes.
So based on his book Elevate, Robert developed a capacity building framework – set out in his book Elevate Your Team.
In his interview with Growth Faculty he explained that one of the core principles of the framework is that each person is the same person at work as outside it.
The key to accelerating an employee’s growth trajectory is doubling down on their personal and professional growth and making it more deliberate and company-wide.
Today Acceleration Partners is focused on helping its people grow holistically. Capacity building is a core part of their culture, aligned with their core value: Excel and Improve.
Robert says it is the centrepiece of AP’s leadership training which focuses on building self-awareness, authenticity and individual ability as a leader, as well as management tactics (like running meetings and giving feedback).
It's been a big success, with Acceleration Partners the recipient of Glassdoor's Employee's Choice Award two years in a row.
Why you need capacity building
Why do some people keep up with a company’s growth while others are consumed by it?
Robert says that an employee’s growth trajectory has nothing to do with their experience or their performance in their current role; rather, the most important predictor of future performance was the employee’s ability to improve at a high rate irrespective of their starting point.
Every time new roles are needed as a company grows, that company has to decide if it promotes from within or hires from outside the company.
Most companies will have:
· Underperformers (no ability or desire to improve over time).
· “A-players” (who grow at the same rate as the growing company and are always the right person in the seat at the right time).
· “Unicorns” (highest level performer in an organisation. Rare, they grow faster than the company requires – do anything to keep them happy)
· The rest – who fall somewhere within the capacity-building zone. (Can be good contributors with growth, just not at the pace of the company).
You can track each employee’s growth in relation to your company’s growth to discover your high potentials.
To build the team’s capacity at the same rate as the company is growing you need to focus on all 4 realms in Robert’s capacity building framework:
· Spiritual capacity
· Intellectual capacity
· Physical capacity
· Emotional capacity
(See also our blog 5 Must-Have Strategies to Empower Your Team)
This is understanding who you are, what you want most, and the standards you live by. People with high spiritual capacity have a clear understanding of their purpose in life, their core values, and their strengths and weaknesses in their personal and professional life.
Leadership is dependent on authenticity. It’s the foundation.
Values are a core part of this. They are a guidepost to keep you on track in life. For example, Robert’s own core values: Find a better way and share it, self-reliance, respectful authenticity, long term orientation, health, and vitality.
To find your core values ask 6 key questions:
· In what non-work environments are you highly engaged?
· In what professional roles or jobs have you done your best work?
· What help, advice, or qualities do others come to you for?
· What makes you disengaged in a personal or professional setting?
· What qualities in other people do you struggle with the most?
· What do you want said about you in your eulogy?
Identify any words that repeat or jump out at you in your answer. For example, Robert says the words better, improve, candour, coaching turning up in his answers. Also write down the opposite words for any answers to the questions that required negative responses (i.e. for "micromanaging" as a quality you struggle with in others you would put your core value words as "autonomy" or "trust").
Put together, all these words will become the core of your core values.
Understanding your capabilities and strengths
Using diagnostic tools like Clifton Strengths (or Patrick Lencioni’s 6 Types of Working Genius) help team members to understand how to work together more effectively.
Understanding your why
Popularised by Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, finding your why is part of building your spiritual capacity.
Robert says the Why Institute has developed 9 Why Archetypes – contribute to a greater cause, to build trust, to make sense of complex situations, to find a better way, to do things the right way, to challenge the status quo, to build mastery, to create clarity, to simplify.
Communicating your why helps to build clarity in the team and helps employees develop into competent and confident leaders. It also helps individual contributors understand how they can contribute at a higher level.
· Identify your core values
· Do a strengths assessment (see Patrick Lencioni's Global Headline event)
· Find your why
“People tend to eye exits when they stop learning.” – Robert Glazer
Intellectual capacity is how you think, learn, plan, and execute with discipline. People with high intellectual capacity seem to get more done in less time. They set clear goals, build the skills necessary to achieve those goals, learn constantly, and develop the habit to stay on track.
Research has shown that having an opportunity to learn and grow is a crucial driver in employee motivation and retention.
In practice most companies fall short of creating a culture of learning. But, as Robert says, people leave a company when they stop learning. Organisations must find a way to give their rising stars an opportunity to learn and grow or risk losing them to competitors who will.
“As a leader, building and supporting an environment where everyone is encouraged to learn and are both implicitly and explicitly rewarded for it is one of the best investments of your organisation and your leaders time energy and resources.”
Train beyond the job description
Take a leaf out of AP’s book and teach financial literacy, and leadership and management training to all members of the organisation. In other words, teach them to lead before they are called upon to lead.
Fostering personal learning
Sponsor a company book club or a podcast club. Consider offering employees a learning stipend and encourage them to learn in areas outside their job description, or in something they’re passionate about.
Personal routines have an enormous impact on professional performance. Organisations have a huge opportunity to make time management, organisation, discipline part of their core training skills.
Building routines and habits.
Make mornings matter more (meditating, reading, journalling).
Mastering goal setting
Have team members share goals (by sharing they get accountability).
Coaching and feedback
A learning culture is a feedback culture, says Robert. To give people a high growth trajectory you have to give them space to make mistakes and get feedback for improvement.
However, he points out, hard conversations are even harder when you haven't learned how to have them. So, practise these conversations in a low stakes environment (like role-playing).
Don't practise just giving feedback. Taking feedback well is a trait that should be practised and sought out in new hires. (A tip is to assume feedback is always about the work, not about the person).
When receiving feedback:
1. Listen and don’t be defensive.
2. Don’t focus on your response. Respond later when you’ve had time to reflect.
3. Respond first with thank you. It takes courage to give feedback.
This is about your health, wellbeing, and physical performance. People with high physical capacity have the resilience and stamina needed in stressful and challenging situations. They manage their energy and avoid burning out by working smarter, not harder.
Poor sleep is simply bad business.
Robert says in Elevate Your Team that The National Sleep Foundation found that 7-8 hours sleep is needed to perform well cognitively.
The average person barely gets 4-5 sleeps a night, relies on caffeine for energy, never takes breaks.
It’s easy to see how someone can exhaust themselves working for a high performing organisation, especially with blurred lines between home and work exacerbating the problem.
So, note to leaders:
· Don’t brag about hero hours. Your team will emulate them to try to keep up with you.
· Take time to unplug. You’ll eventually hit a wall and experience burn out.
· Limit out-of-hours communication. Use the delayed delivery function to send non-urgent emails if you have written them on a weekend.
· Set clear deadlines. Otherwise, employees will think everything is urgent and important.
Make it clear the leaders in your company prioritise time outside of work. Remember your personal behaviours become informal guidelines for others in the organisation.
Manage outcomes not hours
This focuses employees on the right things and exhausting hours are unlikely to achieve desired outcomes anyway.
Think of the Pareto Principle, 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.
Create organisational score cards (or role cards, as Creating a Culture of Accountability author and speaker Mark Green also suggests) with outcome driven metrics.
Choose 3 priorities, which helps employees work fewer hours but feel they’ve accomplished.
Create company initiatives to improve wellness.
Encourage your employees to make small improvements.
Encourage flexibility (so long as outcomes are achieved), so that they can take care of their health.
Consider a wellness stipend.
Start a wellness challenge. Make wellness challenges opt-in only.
Read Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
This is how you react to challenging situations, your emotional mindset and the quality of your relationships.
People with high emotional capacity always bring the perspective to challenging situations, when others are panicked by high stakes or frustrated by setbacks, people with high emotional capacity are commonly navigating challenges, learning from failures, and rallying the troops.
They work well with others, and command respect from direct reports, colleagues, and leadership alike.
Psychological safety in the workplace is essential to help bring great ideas to the surface, and help teams be comfortable with disagreements.
Sharing and communicating core values helps to build trust. Leaders have to demonstrate vulnerability first. Admit to mistakes. It’s a great way to model vulnerable behaviours.
Use check-ins with employees to really check in with how they’re going.
Build in safe discomfort – to get employees out of the comfort zone
Get people to mix at company events (use breakout groups, or allocate randomised seating), get team members to share personal stories with each other (happiest moments in the last 30 days), or get them to sign up for new experiences.
Organisations with low EC are regularly flattened by failure and adversity because they focus on what they don’t or can’t control. Organisations with high EC focus on what they do control and respond to adversity with resilience, accountability, and innovation.
Leaders go first
Capacity building starts with you. You can’t inspire unless you are leading as your authentic self.
Build your own capacity as a leader with these questions from Elevate Your Team:
· Spiritual Capacity – are you clear about what you value most, and your strengths. Do you use that knowledge to lead authentically?
· Intellectual Capacity – are you consistently able to learn, grow and accomplish what you want to do each day or do you find yourself struggling to start, falling off course, or lacking discipline.
· Physical Capacity – do you effectively manage your energy or are you constantly sleep deprived, stressed out and burnt out?
· Emotional Capacity – do you surround yourself with people who encourage you, value you, help you learn, or do you have a lot of close friends and family who leave you feeling exhausted after each interaction. Are you willing to be vulnerable? Are you good at differentiating between what you can and can’t control and spending your time on the former.
Deciding who needs what
Much of the book Elevate Your Team is about coaching people up to the capacity building zone.
But the people who are at or above the company growth rate require your attention as well.
As you recruit and develop more "A players" and "unicorns" it’s crucial to have a clear path for their ascension within the organisation. You never want to lose the unicorn because someone in the lower region of the capacity-building zone is blocking their path.
Every leader in an organisation needs to reflect periodically on whether their individual contributors should get opportunities to lead teams, whether their team leaders should get opportunities to lead departments, and whether department heads have a shot to ascend to the executive level.
Leaders must be intentional in creating a talent management strategy dedicated to capacity building to be in a position to have a surplus of talent.
Every leader in an organisation has two key decisions in the capacity building arena:
· To help their people get better at their current jobs or help them get better overall (the latter is the better choice).
When capacity-building is fully instilled at every level of the company the decision for leaders is then whether to be threatened by the stars within their teams, departments or companies, or to give those stars opportunities to advance and become the organisation’s next leaders (the essence of true leadership and the way to build a great, enduring company).
What type of team do you want to build?
What type of organisation do you want to lead?
What type of leadership legacy do you want to leave?
As Robert Glazer says, capacity building is the system to build your business by building your people and ensuring the best possible outcomes for employees, leaders and the organisation as a whole.
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