RSS Finding Your Wings

The subject of this article comes as a result of some personal reflection about the fact that each of us has within us the ability to fly, to be significant. This significance can be achieved independently or in collaboration with others, with the result – enhanced confidence – helping us to achieve even greater outcomes in the future. This has ramifications to us as individuals and to our organizations. 

Think for a moment about where you are in your own career at this very moment. Are you happy, fulfilled, and motivated to perform at your best? As employees, we are all tasked by our organizations to create sufficient value, such that our employment “contract” gets renewed on a daily basis. We know that employers don’t really look at our performance as single day evaluations, but rather as an evaluation of our body of work over time. However, it isn’t unrealistic to think that our organizations COULD evaluate our value on a daily basis, which, to some of us, may warrant a critical assessment of our daily results and outcomes. 

I lead with this thought because, as leaders, it is critically important that we truly understand what each employee is capable of, what their highest and best use is, and what motivates them to achieve their greatest results. All too often I have seen (and even contributed myself at times) to employee resentment toward leadership. A team member may feel that their career has been stifled because their leader has deemed them lacking in some knowledge or skill set that prevents them from applying for, or being promoted to, a position for which they feel qualified to hold. As I have discussed in a previous entry, leadership is both science and art. In the circumstances described above, the “art” is in recognizing exactly how much expertise and knowledge are required for an employee to be given “wings” to pursue new opportunities within their organization. 

You see, to me, team members who are most deserving of a promotion or added responsibilities are those who possess the following characteristics:

  1.  The ability to think and act independently while completing their current assignments  efficiently and effectively
  2. They are perceived by others in the organization as someone to emulate or as creating value beyond the role with which they are primarily tasked to do
  3. They display both confidence and humility, to the point that they know they are creating tangible value for their organization but eagerly share credit with their teammates
  4. They openly communicate their desire to be given their “wings,” and are willing to work with their supervisor on a specific action plan and timeline in order to get them. 

I’m sure there are other characteristics that I could add to this list; however, in the interest of brevity, I think it is important that I also address what I believe to be the biggest single reason why supervisors (including me at times) are hesitant to give an employee their wings. It’s simply that we may expect an employee must be perfect, mistake free, before being given additional responsibility, or anointing them with their wings. The problem with this is that none of us is perfect.  I’ve heard it said that even the best leaders make mistakes 60% of the time. It’s the 40% they get right that are the most important.  

To be perfect means to be risk free, and if there is no risk, there is no upside value to the organization. If there is no upside to an organization, it’s likely due to the fact that team members have lost the creativity to challenge the status quo, and likely will do only those things they can do right. I say this not to suggest we consider giving wings to employees who aren’t ready to “fly,” but rather that we may have stars that can shine brighter if only we create a good career plan and time-bound goals with them. Failure to create a strong career plan for those team members who have a desire to grow in their careers comes with risk. They could become frustrated and seek their wings from one of our competitors.  

The creation of “wings” is the art project for every successful leader. The more employees you help earn their wings, the greater value you add to your organization. Let me end with this question: As a leader, do you want to run the risk of losing a valued employee? Whether or not it’s to a competitor, how will you feel if you have failed your leadership “art” project?

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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