Knowledge is valuable; however, knowledge alone may not be enough to bring success.
Imagine your car has an issue and you have two repair service options. One possible mechanic has read several books and watched a few videos about how to fix your car’s particular issue. The other mechanic has previously worked on 25 vehicles just like yours with the same exact problem. Which mechanic do you choose to work on your car? You would choose the more experienced mechanic with a proven track record that demonstrates his/her ability to apply knowledge to solve the problem.
Now imagine you have a very important project that you need to delegate to a team member. To which team member do you assign the task? Here, too, your confidence will lie with the one who possesses knowledge and experience. Experience is produced when knowledge gained is applied to real life situations.
As you work to develop leaders on your team, help them gain experience and not just knowledge. Here are a few ideas on how to help your emerging leaders grow in experience.
Encourage new life experiences.
Encourage your less experienced team members to look for ways to gain experience in all walks of life: accept new projects; volunteer in the community; mentor someone younger; try a new hobby.
Give your potential or inexperienced leaders real opportunities.
Trust emerging leaders with projects and responsibilities that matter. They may not be successful every time and they may not do it exactly the way you would. Trying and tackling something new is where experience is formed.
Ask “why” in your coaching.
Coach emerging leaders through new leadership opportunities by helping them understand the “why”. The objective is not just to accomplish the goal or get the right answer, but to understand the dynamics involved in success or failure. Inexperienced leaders need to understand what led to the final outcome. This helps them consistently make better choices in the future.
Model your own pursuit of growth.
Inexperienced leaders need to see their supervisors continue to pursue personal growth. We never “get there” when it comes to experience. We must continue to increase our knowledge base and breadth of experiences. This helps us to be better leaders, and clearly communicates that we value continued growth.
We live in a world where knowledge is more readily accessible than ever before. The answer to almost any question can be acquired by just a few clicks online. This access to information has leveled the playing field for many industries. We can no longer differentiate our teams by knowledge alone; the greater advantage is real life experience. We must continue to pursue knowledge; but more importantly, we must help our team members empower their knowledge through practical experience.