Updated: Sep 25, 2020
To effectively lead teams, managers can use the RAP framework. RAP stands for (R) Recognize and Review, (A) Align for Performance, and (P) Provide Purpose. Conducting RAP sessions with your employees on a regular basis will improve their performance and your ability to lead.
To successfully compete in the future, companies need to have strong leadership among all ranks and across all locations. As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, once said, “… the only true differentiation between companies is the quality of leadership. Yet, companies often struggle to hire and develop leaders. According to one survey of senior executives, 76 percent believe their companies need to develop leadership competencies, and only 7 percent think they are doing so effectively. In addition, roughly 30 percent of US companies admit they have not fully exploited their international growth opportunities because they do not have sufficient leaders among their ranks.
One reason for this lack is that managers appear reluctant to develop people who can lead. Instead, they see competencies like strategic execution or data analysis, which help employees with their immediate responsibilities, as most important. They focus on developing people’s technical skills, when they also need to be focusing on their soft skills. As employees rise through the company to positions in which leadership becomes a central priority, the lack of investment in developing leaders becomes clearer.
But developing these leadership “soft” skills is no easy task. The first step is to abandon the philosophy that employees are there only to execute—to do what management tells them to do. Developing future leaders requires empowering and enabling employees to begin making strategic decisions for themselves and the company. It means helping people to focus not just on getting short-term results, but on seeing bigger-picture ideas and aligning people behind those ideas.
As a manager, you can help by coaching people on your teams. In fact, Millennials say they want 50 percent more coaching than older generations. Moreover, research has shown that managers who have more frequent conversations with their employees are able to get better results from them and develop them into better leaders. The research also identifies what the managers talk about during these conversations—and suggests that the topics of conversation matter. The most effective conversations focus on a few key activities that make up what’s called the RAP framework.
RAP stands for (1) Recognizing and reviewing past behaviors, (2) Aligning future behaviors for improved performance, and (3) Providing purpose for future behaviors. Let’s see how these help develop global leadership competencies.
First, managers recognize the strengths of potential leaders, both identifying and praising them. They make sure the individuals are continually recognized for the good work they are doing and for the specific skills they possess. Managers also provide clear developmental feedback to potential leaders. They review past performance together, but they spend only a short amount of time doing so. They concentrate instead on ensuring both parties understand the employee’s specific skill gaps and on helping the employee create an action plan to fill in these gaps in the future.
Next, managers provide coaching to help the potential leader align his or her actions with the company’s goals. The manager is careful not to provide a plan —leaving that to the individual—but instead helps the future leader ensure that his or her personal leadership development plan is in place, moving forward, and creating value.
Finally, managers provide purpose and clarity to ensure the potential leader understands how his or her efforts are making a difference for the individual, the team, the company, or external stakeholders like customers or family. For example, how does your plan help improve people’s lives? How will they benefit from your contribution? This recognition binds the individual’s vision of what he or she needs to do with the goals of the company and inspires the person to give effort above and beyond the minimum required.
Remember, the RAP framework isn’t just about how you coach others. It’s also about how often you have these conversations. By using the RAP framework with employees on a regular basis, you will build stronger bonds between yourself and your team members, support them in taking responsibility for their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to become future leaders. By helping develop such leaders, you will be on track to creating a more efficient, comprehensive system for developing leadership among all ranks and across all parts of the company.