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Nothing compares with the thrill of watching others grow in their own effectiveness, and knowing that I've had a little part in it.

Here are three things I've learned about equipping others to achieve excellence in their own work.
  1. Find and keep the best people.This is the leader's most important task. You know these three reasons by heart by now. First, everything rises and falls on leadership. Second, those closest to you will determine the level of your personal success and that of the organization. And third, an organization's growth potential is only as good as its personnel potential.

    A person with the right attitude who merely lacks skills can be trained. But a person with all the skills in the world and a questionable attitude might never take you where you want to go. We all know that good people are hard to find. Search for them continually, and hire them regardless of openings. You can always find a place for another winner on your team, because they'll pay their way and more.

    Ask two questions of every person you consider: "Can they?" reveals a person's ability; "Will they?" deals with attitude. If I had to give priority to one, I'd go with attitude. A person with the right attitude who merely lacks skills can be trained. But a person with all the skills in the world and a questionable attitude might never take you where you want to go.

    Conversely, removing poor performers from an organization is as important as hiring great performers. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Poor performers are unable to pay their way, because they are in the wrong place.

    Letting people go is one of the hardest parts of leadership. That's a tough thing to do, but one that's ultimately better for your organization and better for that person as well. It helps to know that by releasing them, they are much more likely to find a place where they can make a meaningful contribution, and in the process, feel good about themselves again.

  2. Make clear what needs to be done.
    Excellence can only be achieved with clear expectations. If you want to help your team reach optimal performance, they need more from you than a list of specific tasks. They need to know how to add value to the organization and have opportunity to continually improve their personal performance.

    Develop job measurements that encourage improvement. Set achievable goals with your team and celebrate when they achieve them. Ensure early on that they get some wins under their belts. Continually communicate the need for continual communication. Invite constructive feedback. The last thing in the world a leader wants to hear from someone after a train wreck is, "I saw that one coming." Make sure they have the opportunity to share their insights and concerns before the train leaves the station!

  3. Let them do what needs to be done.
    If you don't trust your team enough to let them go, one of two things is wrong. Either you violated rule number one and didn't hire a winner, or you have a problem with control. Either way, you are severely limiting what that person could do for you, with you, and in you.

    Give people job ownership. Make it clear who is responsible for what. Don't ever put someone in the position of having authority without responsibility. Get the decision-making process as close to the work as possible. Distribute authority, avoid micro-managing, and focus on the future.

    By allowing people to give their lives to things that matter and create value, you'll empower them. Empowered people feel the freedom to be creative, make decisions, and act without waiting on their leader. If you pick winners and give them this gift, you'll achieve things you never dreamed were possible.
This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's
free monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired
available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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