Have you made the right moves to set your organization up for long-term health, growth, and sustainability? Have you identified and invested in the rising leaders of your organization? Have you thought about who will take the reins, in the coming years, to carry your business forward? If you haven’t, you’re not alone.
Succession planning is not a topic many organizations think about proactively. And yet, succession planning is all about proactive steps and investments, which ideally lead to the successful transfer of leadership and a sustained level of the necessary institutional knowledge. No matter the size of the organization, there are few that devote the right level of thought and effort around the development of plans to identify the right rising leaders while also surrounding them with the appropriate supports for success.
As we’ve recently turned the page on a new decade, it’s the perfect time to think about planning for the future differently. It’s widely known that a significant demographic shift in the workforce is looming. Baby boomers occupy a substantial number of leadership positions and their exodus from the workforce will impact capacity and institutional knowledge while leaving your organization at risk if you do not take action. With thoughtful and intentional preparation, you can manage for all of the changes that are on the horizon. Whether it be the generational transfer of leadership or the natural changes that take place when new employees fill vacancies, proactive planning can lead you forward in a way that provides the business sustainable health and growth.
So, what does proactive planning look like? There are multiple prongs to a successful approach. Taking even one of these steps will propel you forward with new energy and preparedness for what lies ahead. Let’s walk through a few highlights below.
Learn to Spot the Top Performers
The most effective leaders know their teams: The strengths they possess and what motivates them. In working with our clients, we have found that executive leadership often has a notable level of uncertainty on how to effectively identify if a next tier leader has the potential to positively influence team behaviors and successfully identify and implement strategic objectives. Additionally, they feel uncertain on how to identify if the next tier leader truly understands what high performing leadership duties look like, how to successfully allocate time and resources and how to build and enable the high performing team needed to deliver desired results.
When you need to understand talent at their deepest level, it is important to use trusted, comprehensive tools that reveal precise details of their behaviors, drivers, skills, competencies, and acumen. Deploying these types of tools creates visibility into the most accurate and detailed picture of a person’s how, why, skills and how they think, (or their thinking filters). This approach uncovers insights into all levels of their talent and potential for expanded leadership responsibilities.
When choosing to engage with these types of tools, it is important to have a certified analyst take you and the next tier leader through a debrief with the goal of accomplishing the following:
- Identify the right talent to assume vital leadership roles in the organization
- Aide in the selection and creation of development plans for those identified individuals motivated and capable of performing at high levels
- Uncover high potential talent that can build and motivate teams to their full potential and profitability
- Analyze and identify the key strengths and blind spots present in your talent slated for leadership.
Why is it important to use a carefully thought out assessment approach to identifying the next leaders?
Many organizations have a strong desire to promote from within wherever possible, especially in today’s competitive hiring market. However, we have found that often great contributors don’t always make great leaders. When you take a fantastic worker out of the field and put them into a leadership role, it sometimes doesn’t work. Leading a team requires different skills than being an individual contributor. When organizations promote talent because they were excellent individual performers into leadership roles without investing in the developing the necessary skills, competencies, and overall leadership capabilities needed for this new space, the rate of success for both the new leader and the satisfaction of the team they now lead is not great. If the new leader doesn’t transition well into the position, the company has essentially missed twice — losing a great contributor and hiring an inefficient leader.
Leadership Development That Takes Theory Into Practice
When it comes to training your next tier leaders, it’s not enough to have them effectively identified. Having a first-rate training plan that employs assessment solutions, coaching, workshops and practical application on the job is critical. It is important to give next tier leaders the training and tools to be effective leaders, and give them opportunities to put it into practice in their current roles with the guidance of a skilled coach.
During this practical application stage it is important to allow next tier leaders to focus and dive deeper into areas such as goal alignment or creating accountabilities. This real-time practice and application of learnings in the work environment is critical for long-term success of building, developing, and solidifying new leadership styles while also leading their teams to high performance and desired results.
Keep The Next Tier Leaders Engaged
Traditionally, leaders have been groomed and developed by companies over a certain time period. Employees work their way up the ranks, gain valuable experience, learn from mentors and, eventually, gain the necessary skills to become a leader. But what happens if your company doesn’t have a position available yet for the newly minted leader? You run the risk of losing them if you don’t keep them engaged. We’ve watched this happen time and time again. Organizations invest in a development program to check the box that they invested in their people. Yet, before you know it, the newly developed talent feels placed on a shelf, waiting idle for an unknown amount of time for that hopeful next promotion or opportunity to come on the horizon.
How do you avoid your leaders feeling placed on a shelf when you don’t have the capacity to pull them up to the next big opportunity?
It is important for executive leadership to provide stretch goals, mentoring and inclusion in the strategic thought process of the organization. This allows the talent they’ve invested in to continue to grow in the value they provide the organization while also gaining important exposure to higher levels of decision making and strategy. Sounds great, right? Yet, we recognize most organizations don’t know how to do this on their own. One of the most effective ways to approach this continued development and heightened engagement of your next tier leaders is by enrolling them in a cross-functional and cross-industrial think tank with peers from other companies. Doing so helps the graduates of your development program to tackle real organizational needs while developing out-of-the-box thinking and problem-solving capabilities through the guidance of facilitated sessions in their assigned think-tank. The beauty of such a program is that executive leadership has an outlet to gain new insight on real-time issues and needs through their rising leaders while benefiting from continued growth and development of their talent. The result is not only engaged and positively challenged rising leaders, but they also receive solutions to challenging organizational issues while they wait for the right advancement opportunity for those they’ve invested in within the organization.