Failing to spot an employee’s strengths can prove to be a leader’s biggest weakness

Are strong leaders born or trained? I am always being asked this question and personally, I believe it’s a combination of both.  Some of the great leaders were born with the skills in their blood, but I think others have developed their own leadership ability through life's experiences. But, what about when it comes to spotting and nurturing leadership talent among the team who support you.

Over the years I’ve come across many great managers.  You notice them straight away, people with lots of energy, who inspire others and communicate their ideas effectively.  As business leaders and entrepreneurs, it’s up to us to identify employees with potential and to develop them to grow the next gen of Richards Bransons and Jamie Olivers.

Why do you think so many businesses don’t make it every year?  Failure to raise capital?  Yes.  Lack of awareness?  Maybe.  But many have failed because they never realised that attracting and keeping the right people is one of the biggest keys to your success.  If, like me, you believe that the greatest asset of any organisation is the people in it, the question must be, “What are you doing to improve the greatest asset of your organisation? What are you investing to maximise its potential?"

Failing to spot an employee’s strength’s and talents will only lead to their dissatisfaction and, I guarantee it will end up costing your business money.

I was recently sitting at a board meeting with a company from my Hamilton Bradshaw private equity portfolio.  One of my finance guys made a really good presentation of complicated accounting information, he did it in such a way that nobody could fail to understand. His approach reminded me just how valuable ‘switched-on’ managers can be.

I’ve always been really passionate about helping people who are keen to develop themselves. As a leader in your business, if you don’t recognise someone’s talents and give them the tools to build a successful career, you won’t realise their true potential.

One technique I’ve always found quite valuable is using people within the business to take on a mentoring role for junior people.  It always surprises me how few companies do this.  All you need to do is take somebody who is strong, experienced and has been with you for some time. Then take a more junior person.  Put the two together and give the mentor a timeline - challenge them to improve the junior person's development over 12 months.  It’s a fantastic way of getting in-house training and motivating staff by using your existing team more effectively.

I also think incentivising managers properly is essential. I’m a great believer in giving my managers a ‘slice of the pie’; a real, tangible interest in the company.  I find it makes them much more focused, increases their motivation and we all work together as a team towards the same goals.

When you are a leader, listening and considering everyone’s ideas will encourage them to be more innovative.  It creates a more entrepreneurial spirit within the business, a sense of ‘sharing’.  If you take a keen interest in an employee, they will be more inclined to give back to your organisation.

So do all you can to nurture your employees.  In my experience, if you really help them realise their ambitions they will pay you back tenfold.  We need to be harnessing the talent that we already have within our businesses, it’s an essential part of business growth, and a culture that more UK businesses should really follow.  


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