How Do the Best Managers Help Their Employees Grow?

Having a strong support system is huge.


By Glen Allison, COO at Honey

The other night as I was flipping through channels, I wound up landing on a Lakers game. Although I was initially drawn to the action––the ball movement, the defense, LeBron muscling his way down the lane––I quickly focused on something else in the background: the hordes of coaches on the sideline.

Every time LeBron or one of his teammates sat down, the coaches surrounded them with towels, Gatorade, clipboards, athletic tape, muscle rollers––everything those players might need to perform at an optimal level at that moment.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this––how the world’s top athletes are aided in their performance by player development coaches and, more broadly, by organizations and systems committed to helping them actualize their potential. And it makes total sense, from a coaching and management perspective: why wouldn’t you invest in the people powering your product? Why wouldn’t you want them to be the best they can be?

Eventually, it hit me: we should do this with our employees at Honey. Really, every start-up should start doing this with their employees––some of who actually are the LeBron James of their field, mental athletes of intense acuity and skill. To nourish them, you need to build a support system designed to help them improve and stay sharp.

In the days that have passed since watching that game, my team and I have gotten to work implementing exactly that. We’ve built an apparatus of support powered by the equivalent of player development coaches who can help each employee better perform––think in-house mentors––as well as managers who provide logistical, project-based support. The goal is to give mission-critical employees across the company––from VPs to middle managers––the leadership coaching and organizational development they need to compete for us at the highest level.

Here’s why this is something I’m so excited about, and why I believe it’s such an important investment.

It only benefits you to maximize the potential of your top-performing employees.

At any given company, your key players––the LeBrons of your team––are the ones who are going to drive growth and progress. They’re also the people you expend the most effort bringing onboard. It’s your responsibility, for these reasons, to ensure they have everything they need to be their best selves.

Oddly, many companies neglect that. They spend time and money bringing on star performers, and then they just sort of assume they’ll do great things on their own. Instead, they focus their development resources on onboarding rookies. It’s like recruiting LeBron onto your team but not giving him a conditioning coach or a trainer, allowing him to essentially atrophy.

The truth is, your stars need coaching and support, too.

And giving them what they need to thrive is crucial, since the value they’ll bring by operating closer to their maximum potential is a genuine difference maker––especially when you consider how the LeBrons of your team, if cultivated and supported correctly, will turn into coaches themselves. And when that happens, there’s a residual effect where everyone becomes inspired, enabled, and encouraged to elevate their game.

This kind of investment inspires loyalty.

Our formula, when you break it down, is simple: hire people who are great at what they do, and then hire folks who know how to make their lives easier and help them get even better.

But as it turns out, that formula has even more benefits than we initially realized––both from a performance standpoint and less tangibly. Because the greatest perk you can give employees is the chance to realize their potential. When you do that, you not only elevate performance, but you also inspire loyalty.

Whether well-known industry star or fresh out of college, your people will stick around if they believe their company is loyal to them. If your people feel invested in, they’ll invest in you.

Yes, this is a sizable investment––but it’s worth it.

No, hiring leadership coaches and mentors isn’t cheap. It’s an investment requiring both cash and time.

Yet, it’s an investment that pays off—at least, it has at Honey. We haven’t even yet fleshed out our support system to the furthest extent possible. We can do better. We can hire more folks committed to coaching and mentoring. We can hire coaches with more specific focus areas––for engineers and salespeople, marketers and customer success managers.

But what we have managed to build has thus far improved performance across teams and abilities––from our LeBrons to the folks who are more junior––and it’s helped us become more efficient and capable across the board.

In the long run, when this sort of system is implemented correctly, it cuts down on your need to hire multiple people to do the same job, tempers office politics, and limits turf wars. It increases motivation and enables you to cover more ground.

If I could go back, I would have built our LeBron James support system sooner. I believe it’s that important. Because, truly, you can bring on the best people, but if you don’t put the right kind of support system behind them, you’re never going to actualize their or your best performance.

Originally published on Quora.

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