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Leadership: From Slingshot SEO to Africa (Part One)

by Jay Love

One of the biggest joys of being a business and community leader is helping new leaders develop. Pride is not a strong enough word to express the feeling one receives watching a former protégée emerge as a new manager, director, VP or even a president within an organization.

Over the years, I have lost count of the number of wonderful team members who have gone on to become leaders in some fashion. However, I can easily recall the multitude of lessons I was personally part of — including a few that replayed themselves in these last couple of weeks. One of those replays involved Slingshot SEO and the other occurred with a new, but dear friend named Alston Armah from Africa. Click this link about his country of Liberia if you care to explore a bit and discover why he thinks September in Indiana is extremely cold!

 

First, let’s explore the business-related lessons underway here at Slingshot SEO, which took center stage last week. During our bi-weekly leadership team gathering, we focused on the key bedrock of employee satisfaction and development. This bedrock is a 60- to 90-minute quarterly feedback session between a team member and his or her direct supervisor — a practice our entire team will begin this month.

The Slingshot SEO quarterly feedback sessions are designed to provide uninterrupted time for each employee to discuss the following key items in detail:

    1. Top achievements or disappointments for the past quarter
    2. Progress with the mutually agreed upon quarterly goals or KPI’s
    3. Establishing and refining long-term career goals
    4. What resources are needed for any of the goals to be achieved
    5. What obstacles need to be removed
    6. Personal development strategies
    7. Other thoughts, concerns or opinions

We are all operating at such a rapid pace (think of the metaphor master plate spinners like those seen on TV to imagine a typical day here at Slingshot SEO ), securing new customers and delighting existing customers, that most of our regular individual or staff meetings are often entirely focused on the current issues of that day.

One of the biggest concerns expressed on employee feedback surveys is that managers never attempt to aid in career advancement planning. As you can tell by the key items above, the entire premise of the quarterly feedback session is to stay away from daily or weekly issues and to focus on the long term. When executed properly, the results are downright magical!

Over the years, such sessions usually move from a quarterly emphasis to an annual point of view then to a long-term career discussion. What I find truly special about these feedback sessions is that after the first few, both the team member and the manager look forward to them. When that is the case, we know the sessions are being handled properly, and our Slingshot SEO team members will be on their way to becoming successful leaders. What a great feeling!

During this same time period, a new and remarkable friend came into my life. Alston became part of my family for nearly a month. I was not sure what to expect when my wife said we would be hosting a college exchange student from Liberia. This was part of the YMCA International Leadership Exchange where new leaders for YMCA’s within Third World countries are developed. If you are seeing the tie-in to leadership, my blogging skills are finally improving.

You’ll see that strong connection next week in Part Two of this post. I will explore just how much Alston and I learned from each other on this subject of leadership. I know you will find the insights revealing.

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