Customer Service, Outsourcing, Training & Development

Use Teamwork To Develop Leaders

“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

This Steve Jobs quote, which draws a simple yet important distinction between management and leadership, is something I’ve tried to keep in mind as I’ve identified and developed leaders over the course of my career.

The importance of the ability to develop leaders from within an organization can’t be overstated, but frankly, it’s not always a successful initiative. For example, research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), revealed that 66% of companies invest in programs that aim to identify high-potential employees and help them advance, but only 24% of senior executives at those firms consider the programs to be a success.  There’s no question that this is an area that many organizations struggle with.

As I’ve honed my skills in developing leaders rather than simply managing (or micromanaging) a team, I’ve learned that fostering an environment of teamwork and empowerment is undoubtedly the key to making this happen.  Sure, teamwork and empowerment are corporate buzzwords and virtues that just about every company claims to extol.  They sound great in marketing or recruiting materials, but are often empty sentiments.

However, if you are committed to putting actual teamwork and empowerment into place rather than just talking about it, results will come quickly.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Provide Employees With Opportunities For Real Growth: As you assign responsibilities, don’t take the predictable or easy way out.  Think about your individual team members and what types of tasks they have yet to become familiar with.  Whether it’s leading a team meeting, learning a new software application, or interacting with a client, your budding leaders might have some pause about doing so.  However, showing them that you have a genuine interest in them and their growth, and spending the upfront time, coaching, and role-playing with them is key in building the confidence in them to take on new responsibilities, and will achieve just what Steve Jobs refers to…inspire them to do things they never thought they could do.

2. Let Them Struggle a Bit Along The Way: As employees are faced with a new responsibility or situation, their gut instinct will typically be to go directly to their supervisor. Of course, there are times where this is entirely appropriate or even necessary.  However, helping them every time they are uncomfortable with something is the perfect recipe for establishing bad habits and becoming too reliant, thereby stunting their development as a leader. In fact, I firmly believe a bit of discomfort can be a good thing.

Encourage your future leaders to find a way to get what they need independently and bring those solutions to you with the problem they are facing.  Provide guidance where necessary but empower them to arrive at a resolution themselves.  They may even find a better and more efficient way to do something along the way.

3. Don’t Create Silos: If you manage a multi-disciplinary team of any size, unintentionally creating silos based on functions, division or specialty areas is an all-too-common phenomenon. Once silos are created, team members may not share information or processes with other departments. This lack of communication can have unintended consequences, as evidenced by research from Clear Company,  which reveals 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

To achieve a culture of teamwork and empowerment, creating a unified vision—across all departments—that works towards achieving common goals is often the missing ingredient. Whether it is weekly meetings to discuss thoughts, progress and future action items, communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, or Slack, can provide a good medium for these meetings if team members are remote or spread across different locations. Encouraging cross-team collaboration and seeking out ways to keep all team members engaged and informed will support a leadership development mentality.

4. Use Trust To Build An Ownership Mentality: You can preach the importance of acting like a leader all day long, but your employees will never act as such if they don’t feel like they are a trusted and integral part of your team. For example, if you tell your future leaders you want them to grow and develop, find new ways of doing things, and make a true impact on the business, but you still require them to obtain approval for even the most minute decisions, just how empowered will they feel?

A colleague of mine tells a story of a former supervisor describing his management style as “proceed until apprehended.”  Of course, this is a bit tongue in cheek.  But the spirit is right. In other words, find ways to prove that you trust them.  This all starts with a genuine interest in them.  Listen to their ideas and implement them when appropriate.  Give them the authority to make certain decisions on their own, even if they are minor to start.

This type of empowerment will create a true ownership mentality for your future leaders, improve their confidence, and build loyalty and team member longevity.

At Servicing Solutions, we are able to provide superior service and results due to our management team’s decades of experience and growing team of talented leaders.  Ready to “Invest In Real Experience” to improve your customer care and loan servicing functions? Drop us a line at