Four strategies to cope with growth in your team

"I want you to grow and develop and make me redundant"

It’s not that often that you will hear those words coming out of a manager. Truly aiming for their direct reports to grow and develop to the point where the manager seems to be redundant.

Talking about the benefits of facilitating growth and development within the team is a different ballgame than actually doing it. Growth for a manager’s direct reports may be very threatening to their own position. So they want the right people in the right position, preferably with the perfect balance between expertise (a lot) and ambition (not enough to threaten the manager’s position).

The fear of your position being threatened is fair. What are the implications of such a threat to the manager’s role, value, and position within the organization? Or could this perceived threat also be a moment of growth for the manager?

Personally, I love to see and facilitate growth and development within a team. I also love metaphors, and I love gardening. So here comes a fresh metaphor straight from my backyard.

One of my beloved plants is a wisteria. This creeper grows upwards and outwards and has a growing speed of 2 meters per year. Quite an ambitious plant!
As a youngster, wisteria needs to be supported growing up. This support can be a stick, a pole, or a pergola. The plant climbs around the pole and as it grows, it strangles the stick it once needed for support on its way up.

The pergola, however, is solid and strong. It won’t allow being strangled by some ambitious plant.
The wisteria grows around it, and during summer, the pergola is completely out of sight due to the huge amount of leaves the wisteria produced.

During winter, the wisteria loses all flowers and leaves and the beauty is gone. All that remains is the pergola, supporting the plant to grow and blossom into the next season.

As a manager, you have four choices:
(1) Be of no support, and accept you won’t have a beautiful blossoming plant,
(2) Be the pole and let yourself be strangled by an ambitious plant,
(3) Be the pergola. Mostly invisible, yet so indispensable
(4) Facilitate growth and look out for your own next step (which is my favorite option!)

Need some help facilitating growth and development in your customer contact operations? I’m happy to help.