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A leader’s responsibility – Help your employees become more valuable

One key responsibility that any leader in an organization accepts, is to help his or her employees become more valuable. Benefits include:

  • For the employee - Long term career growth, increased earning power, and enhanced skills

  • For the organization - Increased employee engagement and reduced turnover, improved productivity and morale

  • For the leader – a stronger, more independent team and recognition as a developer of people

As a leader, you have an obligation to your company to deliver results. You also have an obligation to each of your team members to help them to have meaningful work and satisfying careers. Take this obligation seriously and make it an active part of your work. If you don’t, your best people will find a different boss and an organization that does.

Enhancing employee value has both a short-term and long-term element. The short-term part can be broken into two types: coaching, for improved performance, or counseling for behavioral change.

Take a look at the chart below. This reflects the everyday reality of being a manager and leader in any organization. Each of your employees will fall somewhere on this 2*2 grid, scoring results, and behavior.

Employees in the upper right quadrant are your stars. They deliver excellent results, and everyone loves them. They represent the company the right way and you trust them completely. Congratulations on getting people like that to join your organization. Do everything that you can to make their jobs and careers satisfying and they will make you look great.

Employees in the lower left were hiring mistakes or have been ruined somehow and probably ought to go be someone else’s problem.

Employees that fall in the upper left or lower right quadrants are the ones that will determine your success as a leader.

In the upper left are employees who are succeeding at the tasks that have been assigned and doing their work well but are exhibiting some behavior that doesn’t fit the culture that you are trying to build. Think of a cowboy who is excellent at riding pens and identifying sick cattle but is chronically late or threatening to other employees. Another example might be an accountant who is excellent with the books but sits in her office all day with the door shut, never interacts positively with other employees, and glowers or acts bothered whenever anyone asks for anything. In each case, the job performance is good, but the behavior is corrosive to the organization. You improve their behavior by counseling. Books have been written on the subject and it is far too complex to detail here, but it starts with letting them know that their behavior is unacceptable and if they do not change, they will not stay in the organization. This is serious and they have to improve. Often, these employees are simply unaware that they are not meeting your behavior standards and can improve rapidly. If that happens, you keep an excellent employee and enhance the morale of the entire organization.

In the lower right corner are people that you like having around but are just not very good at the work that you have assigned. Here, you improve their performance by coaching. This is simply teaching them to do their job more effectively. That involves instruction and training, setting clear objectives, measuring results, and holding the employee accountable for an agreed-upon standard of performance. The employee must know that the current results are unacceptable, and their performance needs to improve. Here again, allowing an underperformer to continue without correction is corrosive to the organization because all the people who are meeting expectations begin to wonder why the poor performer is excused. You will be viewed as a weak leader who plays favorites and does not enforce standards fairly.

Most of us are more comfortable with coaching for performance than counseling to change behavior, but both are critical. If you want to be in a management position, you need to succeed at both.

The long-term part of enhancing employee value is for effective employees whose behavior is acceptable, and who contribute to the culture that you want. For these team members, work together to create a culture of continuous improvement and foster an attitude of life-long learning on their part (and yours!). This might mean sending them to a class, seminar, or conference occasionally. Each employee should have a plan to develop new skills or enhance those that they have. This could include small growth opportunities like assisting in the selection of a new piece of equipment, or something as large as adding a college degree or professional certification. As a leader, you need to be constantly thinking about the skills that your team will need in the future and how to add them. Sometimes you need new hires to get the skills that need to be added but sometimes the people you already have can grow into new responsibilities.

Help your employees to grow by changing behavior, improving performance, and adding new skills. They will recognize that you care about them and you will be the leader that they want to work for. Take this obligation seriously and your employees and your organization will thrive.


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