Make sure you have amazing leadership by mining clearly defined attributes and skills, and supporting ongoing growth.
Formal leaders play a critical role in any organization. And while research linking their presence and impact to employees’ intentions to stay, perform at a high level, and apply discretionary effort is readily available, anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a poorly performing formal leader has all the evidence they need. Needless to say, it’s critical that companies develop effective leadership development programs to avoid the pitfalls that can occur as a result of poor leadership performance.
While having amazing leadership begins with clearly defined attributes and skills that can be mined during the talent acquisition process, continuing to support the growth and development of your leaders once they have chosen to support you on your mission is the next right step.
If creating a leadership development program is on your to-do list for 2019, consider these planning fundamentals:
1. Align it with your strategy and business objectives
- Define the ideal. There are many leadership competencies or behaviors that might be beneficial to develop in your company. Spending some time defining what those are is a critical first step.
- Consider the company strategy. How do you define the ideal? Consider the mission of your company. Consider the short-term strategic priorities of your company. If X is your mission and Y is where you hope to go in the next few years, what superpowers do you need to develop in your employees in order to get there?
2. Identify current and potential Leaders
- Gather employee performance and potential data. Presumably, like most companies, you will have limited resources. So, the opportunity to offer your formal leadership development programs to all will be unlikely. Consider the different means by which you will identify current and potential leaders in your company. Talent review data, 360 feedback, quarterly check-in documentation, observation, development plans, etc. are all potential sources of data to consider.
- Consistent system. Whatever data you choose, consider following a consistent system. Whether that’s a twice a year employee review using the classic 9-box talent matrix, or quarterly employee talent bench reviews, having the company follow a consistent process will help to even out the playing field and increase consistency in efforts. PS: an aligned and consistent process doesn’t mean that if new and improved measures or processes come to light that it can’t be reviewed or edited!
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3. Build leaders and leadership
- Strength in Numbers. You have far more individual contributors than you do formal leaders. So please, if resources permit, consider how you will support the leadership development of your individual contributors. Leadership is, in fact, a behavior and not a title. Imagine what could be achieved towards your company’s mission if ALL your employees were demonstrating some of the most powerful leadership behaviors rather than reserving them for a chosen few on the org chart?
- Respect that things change. Some of the individual contributors whose leadership you develop will never be interested in formal leadership positions. And that’s ok. But things change. And sometimes they change quite quickly. A formal leader becomes ill. A critical employee leaves the company. Someone is asked to join a different team for a period of time. Do you know who will fill their shoes? Ensuring you’re focusing at least some of your leadership development efforts on those with no formal title is a simple succession strategy that can decrease the likelihood that you’re left in a bind when and if the time comes.
4. Development Planning
- Connect the dots. If you’ve used a consistent measure to identify leaders and have an “end in mind” in terms of specific leadership competencies to be developed, you have your starting point for creating a development plan that’s focused. Consider that some plans will be formal and broad in focus (like a three-month leadership development program for a mixed cohort) while others will be more individual and narrow in focus (such as one-on-one coaching or mentoring for a developing leader or a job shadow opportunity).
- Close the gap. The most important thing to consider when closing the skills gap is to remain open to the breadth of learning opportunities available. As previously stated, the answer won’t always be a formal program. When you’ve taken the time to do the previous steps, you’ll be able to decide on a much more focused leadership development plan that really hits it out of the park. You may find that the reason someone isn’t exhibiting a particular behavior is skill/ability related, whereas for someone else it’s motivation. The need to build the skill might lie in the individual or perhaps in the systems and practices of the team. All of these layers will provide you with more information to make sure you choose a learning strategy that really fits the identified need.
If you’re tasked with the development of leaders and leadership in your company, start with following these fundamental steps and see where it takes you. The impact of leadership on a company is great; it’s imperative to invest the right resources and care into doing leadership development right.
Find out how you can help your organization upgrade its leadership development pipeline.