5 ways to help your team reach their potential

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It is super frustrating. You have a talented team member, and you can see their potential, but you repeatedly watch them plateau or just never progress past a certain point. We might not always recognize this clearly, but unless you’re fast tracking every employee on your team to the top, you mostly have experienced this.

The talent is there but after a while the progressive growth seems to slow until they fizzle out. So, how can we support our top talent to shine brighter even if we see them hit a plateau?

Here are five ways you can help inspire a breakthrough and push towards greater potential:

No 1 — Teach them that it’s okay to fail

This was one of the hardest things I had to face coming out of school and into my first public accounting job. I absolutely never wanted a review note on a single thing I worked on. I took them all to be personally critical and a sign that I was doing a terrible job.

It took me a long time to learn how to welcome the review notes and use them to my advantage. They were an opportunity to get better. With every thing I screwed up, that was one new thing I learned how to do right the next time.

Once you are able to adopt that mentality, you lose the fear of failure and start to proactively ask more questions and seek more opportunities to look like you have no idea what you’re doing in an effort to absorb more knowledge.

No 2 —Use SMART goals

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative and Time Bound. Too often our performance reviews or goal-setting processes do not consider each of these facets. Telling someone you have a goal of them getting better at X but not communicating where to start, how they should do that, when they should do it, and the realistic action steps to get there makes the goal setting useless.

If you want your people to shine, create 90-day action plans around their SMART goals (no more than one to two goals per 90-day period) and then meet quarterly to review progress.

No 3 —Be coachable yourself

If you want to see your team grow, make sure you’re growing in front of them. There is not much more intimidating (or arrogant for that matter) than someone who thinks they have surpassed the need to gain new knowledge. In the tax world especially, everything is always a moving target of ever-changing legislation and opportunities to be more efficient. Being coachable yourself will grow a culture of learning and desire for growth.

Leadership requires getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Whether it be difficult conversations with clients, with employees, having to make challenging decisions or even just having to walk into a networking event when you don’t know anyone there.

No 4 —Create opportunities to be uncomfortable

Leadership requires getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Whether it be difficult conversations with clients, with employees, having to make challenging decisions or even just having to walk into a networking event when you don’t know anyone there.

One of the most important success tips I can give anyone is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We naturally do not like it and we will shy away from, and put up blocks for anything that makes us uncomfortable. We avoid it. But your team has to have opportunities to break through these ceilings.

One of the best firms I ever worked for, the partners made an effort to bring staff to client meetings as well as networking events probably well before we were ready to add anything meaningful to the conversation, but it was the best opportunity to learn and we were not held back from it because we didn’t feel confident being there yet.

No 5 —Make it okay to recharge

There is nothing worse than a firm toting their work-life balance glory only to allow employees and clients to call your personal cell phone non-stop when you try to take a day off. Or worse, the boss calls you. Accounting firms have a bad rap when it comes to burnout and long hours. Our reputations precede us and it is turning off the top talent of the next generation.

In order to have a work life balance culture and mean it, you have to put parameters in place to actually make it happen. That means policies to protect people’s time off, that means as owners and leaders we respect people’s time off and also help to manage the workflow to make it all happen.

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