The 1% Leader

As leaders, once we’ve invested deeply in others, we have this beautiful fantasy we like to hold on to.  In our dream world, we recruit the right people and train them better than Napoleon trained his army (I have no clue if he was good at it, but it sounds official when you name drop Bonaparte).

When we read great leadership books, they teach us how to build teams.  Some of the authors will go as far as helping us coach and train our teams.  Very few books talk about helping someone on our team move to a better spot.  I’m not talking about firing someone because they are horrendous at what they do.  If you’ve taken all the steps we’ve discussed previously, you’ve got a 97% chance of weeding out people who are bad at the role you’ve put them in. (I’m told that 97% is pretty good, by the way).  I’m talking about going the extra mile, and putting the people on your team over the team itself.  I’m talking about sending a good or even a great team member on, because it’s best for THEM.

Sometimes a team member will do so well, that they will actually grow in their ability, and become your pride and joy.  It’s pretty awesome when it happens, because you feel great about yourself, the team improves, and everyone invites you to speak at TED talks on developing leaders.  I want to ask you to do something incredibly counter-intuitive though.  Watch for them to grow right out of the role you have them in, and the help them move to their next spot.  On purpose.  I know, crazy right?!

It might be a move to a new spot on your team.  Maybe you can create a role that offers them the challenges they need.  Maybe you can’t.  In that case, work with them to move to someone else’s team.  I know, that feels as stupid as eating healthy food because you think it tastes good, but it’s actually not.  The more you help people succeed, the more other highly qualified people will line up to get on your team.  And, as you help your whole organization get stronger, your area will benefit as well.

How do you have this discussion with someone, and not have it sound like the most passive aggressive firing ever?  Here are some simple pointers:

  1. Ask yourself, and then ask them, what is best for this person long term?
  2. Listen.  A lot.  Be open minded and generous hearted.  Do NOT let fear run you at this point.
  3. If they disagree, understand they are probably nervous about stepping out of a role they are good at, or at stepping away from you as a leader.  Listen to them, and then seek counsel from some other wise leaders you know.
  4. Pray.  Pray before you start the process.  Pray in the middle of the process for you and the person you’re working with.  Pray afterwards for them and their new teammates and leaders.
  5. Support them once they move.  Don’t set them up to succeed and ditch them.  They are like a kid at a new school, they need some old friends who know them to cheer for them and check in on them.  Don’t quit leading them just because they are on a new team or in a new role.
  6. Remember, God’s got this.  If you moved them to help them succeed, God is going to provide you with someone else to develop and pour into.  Ultimately, your life and their’s is in His hands, and He is 100% trustworthy with it.

This step is one of those rare things that will make you an unbelievable leader, instead of just a good one.  Be courageous, be different, invest in people for the sake of the person above your systems or plans.  This will put you into the top 1% of all leaders.

If you missed the other discussions in this series on Recruiting and Training Volunteers,  we’re looked at Seven Crucial Questions for Recruiting VolunteersFour Steps to Pick the Best Possible Volunteers,  Seven Keys to a Great Ask,  Test Drives Save Lives, How to Catch People Doing the Right Thing, and How to Do Great Job Reviews.  I’d love to hear your input on any and all of the posts.