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What’s your leadership word of the year?

Helping every employee shine is more than just a lofty objective; it’s a business imperative.

6 min read


Word of the year

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In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey (who can get you to admit practically anything), Melinda Gates, somewhat reluctantly, shared her word of the year.

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, Gates focuses on one word that defines the year ahead and how she intended to make the essence of that word a reality in her life. In the past, she has selected words such as “spacious,” “gentle” and “grace,” and her 2019 word is “shine.”

“Every single person has a light inside of them, every single person. And if we can turn those lights on … and we stand up for what is right…. we will all shine,” Gates said.

If Gates is correct, and we all indeed have the capacity to shine, how will you as a leader use the remaining months of this year to help others shine?

“Not my job,” you might say. “I hire people to perform a job and pay them fairly,” could be your reply. How much could your organization benefit from a team of people who shine, who deliver their very best every day and are thriving in their roles?

Consider these facts: A meta-analysis of 225 scientific studies conducted by psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Diener shows that employees who “shine” and are happy at work are, on average, 31% more productive, as well as more creative and, if they are in sales roles, producing higher sales.

Think about it. What could double-digit productivity growth do for your business?

Helping members of your team be at their best doesn’t mean instituting some complex process and discarding existing employee-development programs. Instead, lean into those current programs and leverage them to do the following:

Understand the skills and passions of everyone on your team

Focusing on skill development is a fairly common way to develop the talent on your team and will always be important. Yet, what allows individuals to really shine in a role is the alignment of their skills and passions with it.

When selecting individuals for specific roles in your department, be certain that you understand the skills that will be required in that role now and 24 months going forward, which allows you to help the incumbent grow into the role over time. Likewise, seek a deeper appreciation for your employee’s passions and support them in applying those passions in each assignment.

When employees are skilled for a role that also provides an outlet for their passions, you’re much more likely to retain them.

Tailor development plans

If you’ve successfully identified the skills and passions of those on your team, you’ve created a lever you can use to tailor their development. Rather than simply identifying the next job or step in a career ladder typical in most development plans, it’s essential to help your employees uncover their deeper goals. This way, their development can be shaped to meet their goals while still serving the organization’s objectives.

Doing so requires a process of reflection, where employees are first encouraged to think about their lifestyle requirements and consider how the qualities of the life they want to lead aligns with the career trajectory they ‘re considering.

You may find that the typical development path in your organization sufficiently aligns with the employee’s skills, passions and personal objectives. When it doesn’t, you have the information that will allow you to think outside of the box and craft a talent development plan specifically suited to that employee’s needs and the organization’s goals.

Utilize special assignments to promote growth and exposure

Special assignments within a role provide an excellent opportunity to help your employees grow skills or strengths not readily achieved in their daily job responsibilities. Focus on assigning projects that will both stretch the employee and allow him or her to gain exposure to other leaders and functional areas.

While it may seem counterintuitive to risk losing your best talent to another leader, your highest-performing employees should be viewed as a corporate asset. Your responsibility is to nurture them and offer exposure so they have every opportunity to shine, even if that results in them being recruited to another department.

Remove barriers to success

In an effort to build a diverse workforce, it’s easy to fall into the “numbers trap” — where success is defined as increasing the representation of women and underrepresented minorities on the team as a percentage of the total population. It’s true that growth in representation is important, but it’s essential to recognize that the daily work experience in your organization may not be the same for every member of your team, especially those from a diverse background.

One of the significant determinants of an employee’s success is the degree to which they are included in formal and informal networks of communication in the organization. By understanding how others are included (or not) in team interactions, you are positioned to remove the barriers to success that the diverse talent on your team experiences, so each employee can achieve his or her full potential.

Helping every employee shine is more than just a lofty objective; it’s a business imperative. And, as a leader, it’s the most important job that you have to do.


Alaina Love is CEO of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (McGraw-Hill). She is a recovering HR executive, a global speaker and leadership expert, and passionate about everything having to do with, well … passion. Her passion archetypes are Builder, Transformer and Healer. You can learn more about how to grow leaders, build passionate teams and leverage passion to create great customer outcomes here.

When she’s not working with her Fortune 500 client base, Love is busy writing her next book, “Passionality, The Art and Science of Finding Your Passion and Living Your Bliss,” which explores the alignment of personality, purpose and passion, and the science of how it contributes to our well being. Follow Love on TwitterFacebookYouTube or her blog.

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