In today’s world, start-ups have become as common as daily bread. And I firmly believe this is the beauty of our times. Every start-up comes with new dreams, goals and journeys that are waiting to be charted out. The founders start with a vision and then slowly and steadily people join hands and the voyage goes on.
For each of these voyages, several storms are encountered and surpassed. It takes the whole crew along with their varied areas of expertise and varied personalities to help the ship sail through troubled waters. And every single member of the organization learns through the journey. This is the best example of “on-the-job” learning that can be provided in today’s times.
Just like a human pyramid, the organization keeps building up through the years. If the foundation is robust and the channels of communication are strong, then every layer in the pyramid is cohesively aligned towards the goal.
Some start-ups achieve this by maintaining a flat hierarchy so that it’s easier to communicate and some start-ups achieve this by maintaining a strict growth path for their leaders.
But, the underlying principles are the same to achieve organizational success for these growth-phase start-ups.
They need to focus on an emerging set of middle managers. It is immensely critical. I call this the “Lead the Leaders” approach.
Like everything in our world today, technology can play an important role in implementing this approach efficiently in your organization during the fast-paced growth phases. If we can digitize the onboarding and learning of early stage managers, it’ll help in minimising losses and maximising productivity.
In my experience, the 4Cs of Manager Development need to be incorporated into the culture of growth-phase start-ups.
- Co-create the learning vision and strategy – Senior leaders, along with HR (and Learning experts), need to stitch a learning strategy for all managers in the organization. The learning strategy has to be customized for the industry and the company. Tools like Appreciative Inquiry can be useful.
- Coaching programs – Ownership and empowerment comes with self-confidence. Every manager needs to act as a coach. For that they need to learn what are good coaching skills. Companies need to create in-house coaches and sponsorship programs for future leaders. There is a quote in the book – A Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt – “Coaching is no longer a speciality; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach.”
- Competency driven career paths – Several start-ups see team and organizational efficiencies in their early days which “seem” to diminish as the company grows. Most of this is due to the lack of capturing the competencies which created the original winning streak. Creating the right competency matrix and then implementing it for every job role is a key factor in developing future leaders.
- Communication and creating a culture of trust – Finally, the one ring to rule them all! The leaders, HR and the systems in the organization – all need to come together to communicate regularly and consistently the learning vision and the competency based approach to the managers.
The great thing about the market today is that there are several Learning Management Systems (LMS) built and sold which cater to all categories of companies. But this is also the bane of it – how do you choose the right one?
The simple answer is – always keep your end objective very clearly written when you research the market for the right technology for your setup. And trust me when I say, most of these tools are built for being customized for your company as long as your requirements are crisp and clear.
Any LMS that you deploy for your employees should be able to implement the 4Cs that you stitched for your unique environment. You need to ensure that the system is built with and drives your approach if you hope to see any success in developing your talent.
Here are some of the tips that work well, in my experience:
- Define the objectives
- Check and review the learning strategy
- List your expectations from the system
- State all the people and culture constraints
- Ensure ability to easily evaluate learning outcomes and generate reports
- Do a thorough market research
- Compare and get product demos for all your stakeholders
- Review and confirm the post launch support
Companies will thrive only when digitisation and humanisation are used in a collaborative way to understand human behaviour. If you can support your new and emerging people managers to lead their teams well, then your business will not just survive, but thrive in this VUCA world.
Sriparna Sen is General manager HR | People and Culture @ Great Learning
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