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Empowering Growth: The Role of Strong Leaders in Cultivating Talent and Innovation

A leader's job is to map out growth opportunities and find ways to thrive as individuals and employees. Managers and team leaders must encourage and uplift while pointing people to improvement.

Figuring out how to empower workers without tearing them down requires studying human behavior, knowing individual staff members, and applying psychology to feedback. 

7 Strategies for Fostering Talent Development

Finding and cultivating talent within your organization leads to fearless workers willing to try innovative approaches. Here are the ways strong leaders can help.

1. Learn to Sandwich Feedback.

Staff can improve numerous elements for every project. Jumping right into criticism can make staff feel demeaned and unappreciated. Champlain College recommends sandwiching requests for changes between compliments.

Tell the person two things you love about the project. Explain how to improve, and end with a compliment. It’s much easier to take constructive criticism when you hear what you are doing right. When people feel uplifted, they are less likely to burn out and more likely to strive for improvement. 

2. Use the Right Language.

The way you say something can make all the difference. The word “but” is a huge turnoff and can negate anything positive you said. Weak leaders might say, “I loved the colors in this design, but the composition is all wrong.” All the employee hears is, “It’s all wrong.”

Instead, strong leaders use the word “and.” “I love the colors in this design, and we can make this project pop if we adjust the composition a bit and bring the call to action higher and make it larger.” Focus on working together to improve a great design and offer specific elements to adjust. People are much more likely to put their all into the adjustment. 

3. Navigate Change.

As companies grow, the culture shifts and the scope of work changes. Roles and responsibilities often become much more complex than they once were. Solid leadership helps employees navigate such changes and shows how they are growth opportunities rather than new things to lament.

Focus on organizational change management (OCM) and upgrade equipment, while offering workers additional support in navigating changes. Keep in mind that OCM only works when employees feel engaged and heard during transitional phases. 

4. Start at the Top.

Strong leaders are born from strong leadership. Company culture starts at the top and trickles down to new hires. If the company’s CEO is critical and demanding, managers may feel intense pressure and pass down the attitude to their employees. A dissatisfied worker training a new hire will gripe and grumble — and pass the poor attitude on to future generations of employees. 

To truly empower employee growth, the owners of a company must empower top leaders. Send them for training, treat them with respect, value their input and strive to create a fantastic work/life balance that the best managers never leave. 

5. Celebrate Success.

Reward employees with free food and accolades. Focus on the work people put in rather than always looking for results. Although output matters, a hard worker can feel overlooked if management only focuses on the people with the big projects and exciting sales numbers.

One worker may consistently show up, strive to improve and have an excellent attitude but not work as fast. Ensure you’re celebrating all your employees and showing how you appreciate their contribution. Leadership should note even small changes. Quality matters as much as quantity, so pay attention to the person who spends extra time to get things right. 

Remember your remote workers. Studies show around 25 percent of jobs are remote in 2023, and that number keeps growing. It’s easy to forget about the contributions of home-based employees, but they may be a big part of a project’s success.

6. Develop Leaders From Within.

If people have no incentive to improve, they often won’t. Imagine putting your all into your work every day for years. Perhaps you get a few raises or a couple of pats on the back, but overall you stay in the same role, doing the same work without any chance of a real promotion. In the meantime, the company keeps hiring people from outside the company to fill management roles.

To cultivate talent and innovation, you must give your employees ownership of their projects. Give them more responsibility with the idea that those who excel or fail and learn from their mistakes are future management material. The best way to develop strong leaders is to grow and train them from the ground up

7. Accept You Don’t Know It All.

Workhuman's 2023 report found 33 percent of workers feel unheard and disengaged at work. Even worse, many of them feel entirely ignored. When people do a job every day, they learn techniques to be more efficient and see ways to improve the process.

Companies that want to innovate need to listen to the employees in the field. They’ll have ideas someone not directly involved with the task wouldn’t think of. Accept that you don’t know as much about a job as the person doing it, and you’ll be open to new ideas. One of those ideas may shake the industry up.

How Can Leaders Be Stronger?

Cultivating talent and innovation may be easier than finding strong leaders who uplift employees and turn them into creative powerhouses. Start by looking at who is currently in charge of your organization. If they are weak and never offer feedback or are too critical and cause people to feel poorly about their work, they need additional training.

Occasionally, you might encounter someone who doesn’t want to change and grow. They refuse to consider their leadership style might be at odds with the company culture or harmful to one or more employees' confidence. It hurts to change at times, but letting those who are highly negative go may be necessary to build the company and attitudes you want. 

Offer retreats, give feedback to management, send them to conferences and classes, and ask for input from their subordinates. The more information a leader has, the better they can help a company grow and thrive.

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Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.