Leadership Development - Secure The Future
“At senior levels of an organization, the ability to adapt, to make decisions quickly in situations of high uncertainty, and to steer through wrenching change is critical. But at a time when the need for superior talent is increasing, big U. companies are finding it difficult to attract and retain good people. Executives and experts point to a severe and worsening shortage of the people needed to run divisions and manage critical functions, let alone lead companies. Everyone knows organizations where key jobs go begging, business objectives languish, and compensation packages skyrocket.
” Elizabeth Chambers etal, McKinsey & Company, The War for Talent In a recent interview, Dr. Jay Conger states, “Business organizations are not designed to be great training grounds for leadership development. They are great training grounds for execution of an existing business model and, if [the business model is] right, all you need are managers. The problem is that every few years that business model comes under attack and, when it does, you need leaders. Now the problem is that you haven’t been developing them, so you get blown out of the water.
” (“Why Chief Executives Fail,” May 2003, Management Today) As faithful readers know, I’ve had the pleasure and honor to meet some of the world’s greatest leaders and leadership gurus from Sir Richard Branson, General Tommy Franks, and Captain Mike Abrashoff to Dr. Warren Bennis, Dr. Henry Mintzberg, Tom Peters, and most recently Dr. Jay Conger. Through our work with Linkage Inc., we help support broadcasts of these famous people by designing and developing participant and facilitator guides that many clients use to turn a 90-minute presentation into a true learning and growth opportunity. I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jay Conger to discuss the topic of leadership development and succession planning. Dr. Conger has found that companies who are successful at identifying and developing leadership talent address each of the following key components: • Sponsorship – personal, active, and regular involvement at the highest levels.
• Selection – matching capabilities with organizational needs; avoiding complex competency models; acknowledging and addressing things that will derail a potential leader. • Assessors – objectively and subjectively measuring performance and results. • Participants – engaged and personally committed potential leaders, resulting in greater self-direction and organizational loyalty. • Development linkages – using stretch goals and a myriad of assignments, participants are being developed – not merely identified – for succession in a purposeful and planned manner. • Tracking – measuring the effectiveness of the leader – and the leadership selection and development process – to ensure continual improvement in developing the leadership bench. In his book, Growing Your Company’s Leaders: How Great Organizations Use Succession Management to Sustain Competitive Advantage, Dr. Conger outlines the characteristics of companies who are winning the war for talent through their leadership development systems. These characteristics include: First, the most effective systems are simple and easy to use. All participants – not just those running the systems but candidates as well – have easy access to them. Data is secure but open to those who need it.
The winning systems are nonbureaucratic, uncomplicated processes. As an element of that simplicity, there is a unified approach to succession management to ensure consistency and to maintain objectivity of succession management between different business units, organizational levels, and geographic areas. Second, the best systems are developmentally oriented rather than simply focused or replacement oriented. System processes are clearly more concerned with the continuing growth and development of the employee than with an ultimate job title. They introduce a discipline into the organization that continually reminds everyone that leadership development and talent retention are critical priorities and every manager’s responsibility. The system becomes a proactive vehicle for managers and executives to reflect on the progress of their talent and the opportunities they require for genuine development. Third, highly effective systems always actively involve the very top players of the organization. The CEO and the executive team are committed sponsors and champions-proactively participating in determinations of talent and in “next steps” to ensure the maximum development of their talented employees. Effective succession management is seen as a critical strategic tool by senior executives for attracting and retaining their most talented leaders. Fourth, best practice succession systems are effective at spotting gaps in talent and at identifying important “linchpin” positions.
They highlight existing or emerging needs where there are potential shortages of talent within the firm. They focus intensively on linchpin positions-a select set of jobs that are critical to the overall success of the organization. These positions and the individuals who fill them merit and receive regular and intensive attention. The better systems also identify the best jobs for development and whether there are a sufficient number of these or shortages. Fifth, succession planning still does the job of monitoring the succession process, enabling the company to make certain that the right people are moving into the right jobs at the right time and that gaps are being spotted early. The best systems incorporate frequent checkpoints throughout the year. These checkpoints monitor who is where and where the person should be going next. A checkpoint function is built into the system to spot a problem before it becomes a problem! Succession management is so important that the best practitioners don’t ignore this function for even a quarter. Finally, the most successful systems are built around continual reinvention.
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