Ed speaking to the 2011-12 Leadership Institute class.

As President and CEO of Luckett & Farley, one of the biggest challenges I face is finding the sweet spot when it comes to mentoring our future leaders. It's a fine line between being too distant and being just "hands off" enough to allow our rising stars to gain valuable experience in dealing with the myriad of difficulties that our profession offers.

In many instances, employees come to me wanting an answer to a problem or for me to step into a situation they may be having with a co-worker, vendor or client. When that happens, I rarely accept the "upstream delegation." Rather, I try to coach them in taking the next step(s). Some of the younger employee-owners aren't used to this approach and have remarked that I'm not being helpful enough. What I believe some of our Gen Y-ers might be expecting is the "mom and dad" response of swooping in and making everything better. That kind of response helps no one. So yes, I'm hands off.

Does this cause problems? You bet. But more importantly, it serves as long term learning experiences that give our rising stars increasing levels of confidence and helps tee-up problem-solving skills for the next time they’re needed.

I think leadership development can, at times, be an extremely messy process. And it's certainly not a linear progression. How is a strict hands-on approach going to prepare our future leaders?  As my kids might remark: fail!

Many of the younger generation seem to initially want problem-solvers to rescue them. I'd rather coach them to a solution. If Plans A, B and C all fail then I suppose I'd directly step in, but I haven’t had to yet. That’s a testament to the leadership culture and our rising stars at Luckett & Farley.

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