“The leader is ultimately responsible for both the growth of the team and the results.” – Ken Melrose
In his book, “Making the Grass Greener On Your Side,” Ken Melrose describes how servant leadership saved Toro company and played a vital role in the turnaround under his tenure. The above quote is from a chapter entitled, Seed, Not Sod. In this chapter, Melrose explains the importance of serving employees, growing the team and focusing on the needs of their stake holders. This quote summed it up so well: too often leaders focus solely on the results of the team and not the growth of the individuals.
Near Term Results Exclude Team Growth
Now the cynics and opponents of servant leadership will exclaim “of course we focus on results!” After all, position descriptions abound requiring a “results-oriented approach”. At the end of the day results are what matters, right? Of course results matter. The problem is too many leaders only care about immediate or near-term results. For example:
- If you’re only worried about the stock price this quarter, because you plan to leave the company and cash out your options – then sure, the stock price of the next 90 days is likely all that matters.
- If you’re playing in your last football game before retiring then sure, you only care about the score this game and are not worried about future opponents.
- If you’re trying to win public recognition this month and only worried about the homeless in the near future, then you probably only care about how many people you can feed now.
Sustainable Success Requires Team Growth
However, if you want to see sustainable success, then immediate results are only half of your responsibility:
- If you want the stock price to continue to climb next year, then your people must be flexible to adapt to changing business conditions.
- If you want the football team to not just win this game, but the championship as well, the team had better be ready to face not only the scheduled teams, but anyone that shows up in the playoffs.
- If you want to serve the homeless throughout the year and maybe even expand into neighboring communities, your volunteers had better be prepared for changing economic and weather conditions.
In short, if you want your organization to succeed over time, the people must be prepared for changing conditions. To prepare your stake holders, you must continue to grow them. To grow your team, you must make this a priority. In fact, as a leader, one half of your responsibility should be to develop your team.
Melrose made this clear not only by emphasizing it as one half of the responsibility of leaders, but by making it the first half. In contrast, too many leaders today place the immediate results of the team as their first – and only – responsibility. Leaders want to be seen as the heroes that jump into the fray, single-handedly tackle the opponent and save the day. Yet that is not true leadership.
Testing Your Focus on Team Growth
True leadership is serving your stake holders. True leadership is making the organization better than it was before you arrived. True leadership is servant leadership and servant leadership means growing your team. So, are you a true leader? Are you a servant leader? Or, are you only focused on the near term results? Below are several questions to keep you focused on serving the team and on the other half of your responsibilities:
1. Do you spend half of your time developing the people?
2. Do you ensure each employee receives some form of development on a regular basis?
3. Does your team feel adequately prepared to face the challenges expected in the next 12 to 18 months?
If the answer to 2 or more of these questions is no, then chances are you are missing out on half of your responsibilities. It may be time to reprioritize, redefine your job description or reevaluate the expectations of your role.
Question: How do you ensure team growth is a priority? Have you seen other leaders fail on this portion of their responsibility?