Employee growth is touted as a core value in many workplaces, yet in a world that is so focused on performance, it’s easy to lose sight of the learning process that fuels results in the first place. When managers solely focus on the bottom line — rather than the development of their staffers — their team members can quickly feel undervalued and unheard, and might develop a fixed, rather than a growth mindset. That means they will avoid challenges instead of embracing them, respond poorly to feedback rather than listening and implementing change, and ultimately feel stagnant rather than supported.
If you’re worried your team isn’t living up to its full potential, focus on developing a growth culture. Here are some signs you might be standing in the way of team growth, and three ways to encourage it instead.
1. You never have time to guide your team through pain points
As a manager, it is often up to you to track and support employee growth — and course-correct when something isn’t going as planned. But with back-to-back meetings and ever-pressing deadlines, it can be challenging to find the time, not to mention the most effective methods, to coach your team through challenging situations. This can have a detrimental impact; absentee or passive leadership can decrease your team’s productivity and engagement with their work, and on an interpersonal level, it can impact your ability to connect with your team.
Try this: Instead of hoping the problem resolves on its own, take time out of your day to support and show up for your team. Plan a team meeting — even if it’s brief — to address the problem at hand and talk through the ways it has impacted members’ ability to work and grow. Devise problem-solving strategies as a group — rather than on your own, or leaving it to another member of the team — and schedule regular check-ins to make sure your team is progressing through the pain point.
2. You tend to deliver criticism without offering actionable advice
Even though it is a central part of their role, many managers don’t enjoy giving feedback. However, constructive feedback serves an important role — if it’s done right, that is. Feedback that is overly negative or doesn’t offer actionable insights won’t help your team cultivate their knowledge or skills.
Try this: Team members need continuous, empathetic feedback. Try thinking of the scenario from your team member’s perspective: If you were receiving the same feedback, would you be able to learn something from the conversation and apply it to your work, or would you walk away feeling defeated, or even resentful? Consider how you would want to be spoken to and what would motivate you to learn from mistakes. Give your team the opportunity to receive feedback that works.
3. You aren’t always receptive to your team’s ideas
Another factor that impacts employees’ growth is the way their managers respond to their thoughts and ideas. Research shows that if supervisors are thorough and sensitive when responding to suggestions — even if they do not plan on implementing them — their team members are more likely to speak up in the future. On the other hand, a lack of explanation and encouragement could prevent employees from using their voice to the fullest extent.
Try this: To promote team growth, use compassionate directness when responding to ideas and make sure you are actively listening when an employee speaks up. So show nonverbal signs of engagement like nodding, acknowledge what you heard them say, and ask follow-up questions. This way, your team will feel heard, and even if their ideas can’t be brought to life, they can learn from the experience and will feel comfortable sharing with you in the future.
By no means is it easy to promote and perpetuate growth culture during challenging times or periods of change, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved. Paying attention to your team members’ learning processes and encouraging them to speak up through compassionate directness can give them the push they need, and make you a more effective manager.
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