Magazine article Talent Development

Don't Forget the Importance of Followership

Magazine article Talent Development

Don't Forget the Importance of Followership

Article excerpt

Let's face it: Everyone wants to be a leader, someone who blazes new paths and boldly goes where no one has gone before. Google the term "leadership" and you will find 800 million results. Then Google "followership," and the responses dramatically dip to 762,000--less than 1 percent of those for leadership. And while followership is not sexy, it is a skill that needs to be learned by everyone at the start of their careers, kept dear as they move up the corporate ladder, and developed in the people they end up leading.

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Followers are individuals who receive guidance from the ones in charge and, in return, provide them with energetic and proactive support. Put in those terms, every one of us has a followership role at every stage in our professional lives. Nowadays, with less unilateral decision making and more collaboration, followers are relied on sooner in their careers and are expected to actively share knowledge and skills so as to build the appropriate social fabric through which businesses can thrive.

Followership culture

Followers who remain engaged, are productive, and display behaviors that your business should retain look for the wider context and ask questions that help them learn and develop. Great followership is a fantastic source of positive energy for organizations, and with it comes people who:

* exchange best practice ideas

* question processes that might no longer support the strategic direction

* continuously learn largely through self-directed efforts

* see their leaders as individuals who are willing to guide and explain so that they can contribute their best work.

To achieve all of that is easier said than done, of course, but it has to be a requirement for every business that wishes to count on a healthy, agile, and collaborative talent pipeline.

So what can you do, as a manager, to ensure you nurture and encourage the perfect followership culture among your employees? You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

* How often do your employees search for wider context when you forget to provide it or it isn't easily apparent? Other than a false sense of lack of time, what stops them from searching?

* How often do your staff link the tactical tasks with the strategic plan?

* Are the types of questions your employees ask when they misunderstand or don't agree going to help reduce risk or do they insinuate blame?

* What proactive steps do your people take to develop themselves both in their technical competence and behavioral know-how?

* How readily available do you need to make yourself when your staff are working on complex, highprofile projects?

* Typically, how transparent are you when providing rationales for your decisions?

If your answers leave you concerned in any way, you might have some work to do. You cannot underestimate the extent to which a healthy followership is inextricably dependent on your leadership decisions, and it is your duty to take time to truly develop the people who follow you.

Your responsibility

Managing is not a natural ability, but rather the result of a conscious and holistic effort to develop both ourselves and the environment we seek to shape. There are a few fundamental steps any first-time manager can take to turn followership from marginal to magical.

Nurture. Give honest and timely feedback so followers spend less time second guessing themselves and more time being productive. And do acknowledge the behaviors you want repeated--how else will they know they hit the mark? …

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