Growing up, I spent my summers working on my grandfather’s small Idaho farm. Farming is tough, dirty, (sometimes dangerous) work, and even though I was just a kid, I was entrusted to milk cows, bail hay, and repair endless lines of wire fencing. Looking back it hardly seems possible.
One thing that was integral to tackling these arduous tasks, was that my grandfather gave me the opportunity to learn on my own. Along with being a farmer, he also happened to be a teacher, and it was his philosophy that the best way to learn was hands on. So from a young age he provided me with responsibilities, both big and small, that allowed me to figure out a course of action with minimal direction. While he was always there to ensure that I was safe, he got out of the way and allowed me to be in the driver’s seat.
As leaders, we have the same responsibility and obligation. It’s our duty to help the people we lead to be more confident in making decisions and facing difficult challenges independently. So how do we do it? Here are three suggestions.
First is COMMITMENT. Leadership requires complete dedication and focus on the person you are trying to help. You don’t turn this commitment on and off. You must be consistent and genuine in order to unlock the best the performer and the team has to offer.
Second is TRUST. Effective leaders look a little closer and see a person’s potential a little more clearly. My grandfather believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. By entrusting the people we lead with smaller tasks and projects, we can help them develop confidence in their abilities, and nothing fosters engagement and rapid growth more than success.
Third is PATIENCE. My grandfather was very patient with my mistakes, even when I wrapped a hay rake around 20 feet of barbed wire fence. Failure is punishment enough for most high performers. Rather than add to the anguish with more punishment, help people learn from their mistakes to minimize the chance of it happening again.
When leadership is built on the pillars of commitment, trust, and patience, the result is a confident, energized performer who not only stays on task, but also looks at even the most difficult challenges as opportunities for growth and development.