The Nurturing Leader: Helping Your Team Members Excel

Think of all the managers you’ve worked for or with. Who was the best? Chances are, you’re thinking of the managers who pushed you, supported you, and nurtured you to reach your potential.

Being a great leader isn’t just about getting the best out of the team as a whole. It’s about getting the best out of each individual and developing the leaders of the future.

Granted, not everyone wants to be a manager or leader, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still help them excel in the roles they do want. Speak to your team members individually to find out what their goals are, where they see themselves in the future, and how you can help them get there.

Delegating specific projects

Sometimes the best way to develop people is to give them new projects to manage (or a specific role within a project). This allows them to build their skills gradually rather than being thrown in at the deep end. It also allows you to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t just delegate and leave them to it. Give them the support they need to succeed. 

Set expectations: If you want to improve your chances of getting good outcomes, be explicit about what the desired outcomes are. This is especially important when you ask somebody to do something they have never done before. Make your expectations clear.

Provide space to ask questions: Ensure there are plenty of opportunities for employees to ask questions before, during, and after the project. If the project is long-term or ongoing, schedule regular checkpoint meetings or updates, so you can discuss progress and provide any additional support.

Don’t micromanage: While it’s important to encourage ongoing communication and stay up to date with the progress of a project, you shouldn’t micromanage. Trust your employees and give them space to make mistakes or do things their way. Only step in if you feel it is absolutely necessary (or they ask you to).  

Make resources available: Ensure employees have access to any additional resources they might need. If there is a cost to the project, agree a realistic budget in advance. If they need personnel, help them find the right people for the job. If tools or data are required, make these available.

Provide constructive feedback: Feedback should be constructive whether negative or positive. Telling someone they have done a great job isn’t helpful – tell them what they did well and why it was good so they can replicate it in the future. If something didn’t go to plan, help them understand what the cause of the issue was and how they can avoid it happening next time.

Get more from your performance reviews

Too many managers treat performance reviews as a tick-box exercise. They tell employees what a good job they are doing and give them a pat on the head.

Performance reviews shouldn’t be focused solely on past or current performance. They are an opportunity for you to help employees build on their success. Use them to discuss personal development plans and set stretch targets.

When setting targets, make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. They need to challenge the employee – to stretch them – but they should not be unachievable.

When discussing personal development plans, ask employees about their aspirations. Not everyone wants to move upwards, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to build their existing skills, develop new skills, or try different roles within the organisation.

Give employees time in their working week to work on their personal development and any ‘side of desk’ projects you have agreed with them. Provide training opportunities for upskilling or cross-skilling.

Investing in your future leaders and managers

All too often, employees are promoted to management positions because they are good at their job. This is particularly common in sales roles – those with good sales records get promoted.

The problem with this is those newly promoted managers don’t usually have any management experience and often struggle as a result. Being good at something doesn’t mean you can manage other people who do it.

That’s why it’s important to develop future leaders before putting them into management roles or provide proper training and support as soon as they start their new roles.

Succession planning

Managers retire, move on to other roles, or leave the company for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes this is planned, sometimes it’s unexpected. Either way, it’s useful to have people in the company who are ready to step up and fill the positions.

While you could recruit externally, there are advantages to promoting from within. Someone who has been with the company for a while will already understand the mission, vision, values, and existing systems and processes. 

Identify the people within your team who have the potential (and the desire) to be good leaders. Create opportunities for them to develop their management and leadership skills so they are ready to move into new or vacated roles as they become available.


Mentoring can be a great way to develop your future managers or support new managers. They can learn from someone who already has a wealth of knowledge or experience.

Mentors can be people who work in the same company as their mentees – for example, senior employees who mentor their less experienced colleagues. Or they can be external mentors – people who are brought in because they have experience in a particular area or can help achieve a specific goal.


Coaching is another effective way to support and develop your future leaders or new managers. Coaches use a range of recognised coaching techniques to facilitate performance, improvement, learning, and development. 

As with mentors, coaches can be internal or external to the organisation as long as they have the required coaching skills. A trained coach can support a range of leadership levels and help individuals achieve specific goals in a particular area.    


Formal leadership and management training isn’t limited to existing managers. Those who want to progress into management in the future can improve their chances of success by gaining recognised qualifications (like the ones offered via Alternative Partnership).

Developing Nurturing Leaders

As a manager or leader, there’s always something new to learn or a skill you can improve and develop. Organisations need to support managers and leaders in this development, but you also need to invest in yourself.

Getting formal leadership and management training will not only help you build your leadership skills, it will also help you grow in confidence, and increase your chances of career progression.  

Alternative Partnership delivers ILM-accredited Leadership and Management training programmes to support you and your teams in gaining formal, nationally recognised qualifications.

Find out more about our current ILM courses here or get in touch to discuss how our services could benefit you.

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