How to help someone build their capacity - ideas from Simone and two Craigs

Sandy Grant asked on Facebook for advice on how to help build people's capacity. Among many suggestions, I liked the ideas from Simone Richardson, Craig Schwarze and Craig Hamilton, which I repost here, with permission:

Simone's advice: resilience and self-talk

In my experience, personal resilience is a big thing with capacity. And understanding that the way that you (think you) feel doesn't need to impact how you act.

.... A few things that I've noticed that are killers to a person's capacity:

1. not being good at putting the past behind you so wallowing in regret over past failures or perceived failures or injustices or perceived injustices (I wrote this partly about this issue),

2. unhelpful negative and absolutising self-talk ("I slept so badly last night, I'm never going to be able to work properly today")

3. Being in the hopelessness rut where you think that nothing you do will have a positive impact on outcomes.

4. Not being okay in yourself about the things that are outside of your capacity. (There are 100+ women in my church. I speak personally into the lives of maybe 5 of them. I minister to the others indirectly through my kids talks, an occasional preaching gig, chats here and there and through the songs I choose for our church to sing. I'm not Jesus. I'm at capacity. I have to be okay with this or I'll fall apart.)

Craig Schwarze's advice: if motivation and competence are fine, then remove distractions

In my experience, if someone has competence and motivation, then it's usually external factors that are restraining capacity. 

In my field of software development, one of the major reasons people don't hit deadlines is due to interruptions. Sadly, these very often come from their managers! 

Are you giving your staff chunky tasks to do, then treating them like PAs by peppering them with minutiae throughout the day? A lot of my work as a leader is in creating "clear space" for someone to achieve in. That is costly and difficult. But I see remarkable results when I clear away the distractions.

Now, if the person is distraction free and is still not performing to your expected level, then there is very likely either a competence problem or a motivation problem. Are they really motivated? Do they really have the skills they need? Time for some soul searching.

Craig Hamilton's advice: various ways to help people think and learn to be more effective

Great question. This is probably one of the main things I spend my time doing. My goal is to raise up volunteers to lead at a staff level (for us that means people who can lead teams of teams). 

Sometimes capacity issues are external (like sickness, new baby, family obligations) and to some degree capacity is seasonal. But I’m assuming you’re thinking people where those constraints are absent.

Here’s some thoughts, in order of simple/ elementary concepts to what I consider higher-order capacity building. That is I’m probably doing all of these at once but in some ways they build on each other:

1. Urgent/ important matrix

Just helping people come to grips with the distinction between urgent and important is profound. When people understand that doing important things now lessens the amount of urgent things later can be a bit of a watershed. Also having the team understand that just because it’s urgent for you doesn’t make it important for me helps people with the ability to say “no”, which seems to be an issue that slows a lot of great people down.

2. Rolling 6 weeks

People aren’t that good at seeing the big picture, they quickly get sucked into the details (at least the people I work with do). So just helping them with rudimentary planning seems effective. I teach them a rolling 6 week calendar. Get a whiteboard, divide it into 6 squares, each square is an upcoming week, put the date each week starts in each box and underline the current week. Write in the big rocks - the events, appointments and due dates for each week. If there are things due in week 6 you might put a start date in an early week. As each week passes rub it out and in it’s place write the upcoming week (which will be 6 weeks away) in the box and fill in the details. Underline the current week.

This helps people see around the corner and pace themselves and get more done because they’re aware.

3. 1-2-3

In all my meetings we’ll always talk through briefly and write down a 1-2-3 for each person. 1 is one high impact task that if that’s all you did in the next period it would have the most impact and get the most done. 2 is two problems or blockages that you’re currently facing (and the implication is ‘that we might be able to help you with’). And the 3 is the three next concrete steps you need to take, write that email, make that call, find that bible passage, have that conversation etc.

Sometimes what someone thinks is the high impact task isn’t, and I’ll redirect them to what is actually what they need to tackle.

Again this helps people change how they think, from busyness and mindless doing to effectiveness and closing that execution gap between what we plan and say and what actually ends up happening. 

4. Peer-group pressure

If there’s a particular area that I want someone to grow in capacity in I’ll try and get them to spend time with someone else who is good at it, or has more capacity than them. Whether it’s someone from another church or context or ministry. In a lot of ways growing in capacity is about spending time with high capacity people. In a lot of ways capacity is about social norms in that if you spend a lot of time around lazy, ineffective people who don’t do much there’s a good chance you’ll become like them.

5. Focussed energy projects

I get people to think: over the next term what are the 6 areas in your responsibility/ life that you can see if you poured a bit of focused energy there it would have greater benefit than usual? Is there a person, a team, a project, that would benefit from some focused energy. Write those down and diary in some time to put some energy there.

6. Task forces

This is my favourite. If I’ve got someone I’m building up to be a high-level leader, to think strategically and more holistically, someone who could lead over a higher area, when I gather an ad-hoc team to tackle a big problem, or plan a bigger event or whatever, I’ll invite the up-and-comer to that team. Having them rub shoulders with people a level or two ahead of them, be involved in those higher-level conversations, even take on some responsibilities at that level that have consequences if they drop the ball, all that is so impactful and in my opinion is the best way to build capacity and bring people to that next level as a leader. They feel that responsibility, the trust you have given them by inviting them and the self-designation that comes along with that is a powerful internal motivator.

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