The headline in the Free Press read, City sees healthy growth in economic development and reported the growth momentum was predicted to continue well into 2015. It’s nice to see Manitoba’s competitive advantage has been successful in attracting large world-class companies. At the same time, I am pretty proud of the large number of mid-sized, family-owned enterprises demonstrating success.
To continue growth momentum and to sustain world-class status, however, every organization, large or small, needs strong leadership. Leadership is the only way in which you will continue holding on to and sustaining competitive advantage. In today’s global market, the need for strong and effective leadership is unprecedented. Unfortunately, studies show only 30 to 40 per cent of organizations are well prepared to fill their vacant leadership positions should the need arise.
This raises the question: What is the status of your leadership team? Are you at risk from potential retirements? Do you have gaps in the leadership pipeline? Has the criteria for leadership in your organization changed? Are you failing to develop new leaders within your organization? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to take action now. Where do you start? The following guidelines will assist you in creating a foundation for leadership development within your organization.
It has probably been some time since you really paid attention to the skills and competencies needed for leadership, either currently and/or for the future. The first step is to confirm future business trends and determine your strategic plan. Once this is complete, identify the leadership competencies needed to realize your future by identifying just what leadership behaviours, knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes are required for continued success. Prioritize what you consider the core competencies because these are considered a must-have qualification for any candidate.
Once you are comfortable with the leadership competencies you’ve selected, you need to conduct an assessment of individuals in current positions as well as those you perceive as having the ability to progress in their careers. Make yourself a checklist that allows you to assess and measure each individual. Determine if they have the set of skills you are looking for and rate them from excellent, to developing to poor performance.
Once you have identified the skills and capabilities of individuals you perceive as having the necessary skills and abilities, develop a succession-planning map for each position. Name at least three individuals per job and identify whether they are fully ready now or will be within a stated time frame. Next, determine what needs to be done to get each person ready and prepare a career-development plan.
Next, have each individual with high potential and nearing the level of skill levels you desire undertake a psychometric assessment. These tools will provide in-depth information on verbal, numerical and mechanical reasoning as well as personality traits, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. It is important to know if your candidates can set and achieve goals, build trusting relationships, work well with people and demonstrate a sense of self-esteem and confidence. High scores in people skills, combined with the technical skills, will help you select the right candidates for your leadership positions.
Many individuals believe once they have a job, that’s the end of their career search. Not so! Over the course of one’s career, there could be many opportunities for different experiences and/or career advancement. The key is to help employees understand all the elements of career management and to take charge of their careers. As part of your training program, offer career-management courses that will assist individuals identify their own skills, abilities, motivations and desires and then create a career plan. Let them know there are opportunities within your organization.
Leadership research shows highly successful companies develop leaders at all levels of the organization so they have a solid pipeline of talent. This means developing individuals from the front line to mid-level to top executive positions. In other words, create an active development process to prepare people for the next level in their career. This should involve a combination of in-house training in technical areas and general courses, such as problem solving and decision making. As well, plan for the assignment to stretch projects where individuals can learn new skills through practical application.
The most effective leadership training, in my view, is to place groups of leaders into a longer-term program with the same instructor. Typically, I like to see a course offered every few weeks over a six-month time frame. The purpose of this approach is leadership training is also a culture-building strategy. If your leaders are sent individually to different leadership-training programs, each using different theories, I can tell you, there will be no consistency and no culture building. Not only that, in most cases there will often be little or no skill development. How many times have you seen someone return from a three-day or one-week course only to have their course binders sit on the shelf?
Creating a coaching culture requires your managers to build strong communication skills, including the ability to ask questions, to provide effective feedback, paraphrase what has been said and reflect information back to employees. Leaders need to be trained in a coaching methodology best suited to your organization, because you need to ensure coaching throughout your organization is consistent.
Essentially, every item discussed in this article is an important part of workforce planning. This planning strategy is just as critical to ongoing success as strategic planning and good financial management. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t think past the candidate-recruitment and selection stages and fail to implement ongoing development programs for their employees. This means leaders are often operating their businesses by the seat of their pants as far as people strategies go. If that’s the case, they are rarely prepared for the many surprises that will come their way. Don’t let this happen to you.