Regardless of the industry, when talking to leaders of organizations, there is one topic that comes up again and again and again – succession planning. Top CEOs and Presidents are constantly telling us that they are struggling to come up with a good succession plan. The crux of the problem? Leaders are having a hard time developing future talent. In general, most leaders feel that they do a good job of delegating work, but a not-so-good job of delegating leadership. Their focus is on the now – on the work that is coming in and the deliverables that need to go out. The training, coaching and on-boarding for their young people is generally focused on technical and procedural processes rather than an emphasis on leadership and business development. They recognize that leadership is important, but it just gets pushed to the back-burner while they deal with the day-to-day reality of running a business.
The most ironic part of this equation, though, is that when we talk to the emerging leaders in organizations, they express a desire to do more. An emerging leader is a young, dynamic person in your organization that shows a passion and an eagerness to grow and lead. You know who they are; they are the young staff that always seem to want to do a bit more than their peers, the ones who are working for your organization because they want a career, not just a job. They are the future leaders of your organizations, and we know that your young leaders are anxious to do more. They want to step up and get more involved in leading the organization. Many of them are frustrated that they haven’t been given those opportunities and would jump at the chance to learn from the existing leadership and contribute in a more meaningful way. While they’re eager to show their competencies in their area of expertise, they also want exposure to the “hows” and the “whys” of running a business. They want to understand what it means to be a leader in your organization, and they want to develop the tools and skills necessary to, one day, rule the roost.
The solution? The most successful companies out there will tell you that the key to their success is an intense emphasis on training and teamwork at all levels of leadership. When developing a young staff person that has been identified as a potential leader, do not drown them in the technical. For a smart and capable employee, the job-related and procedural skills will come naturally with time, appropriate guidance and relevant tools.
Leadership skills, on the other hand, cannot be taught through a handbook and an introductory on-boarding class alone. Leaders are developed by observing other great leaders in their organizations and working side-by-side with upper management. The earlier an emerging leader can be exposed to the strategic side of your business, the better. Involve them in planning, encourage their ideas and ask for their input. Develop a leadership plan that includes not only the core technical training they need to progress in their job, but also exposure to the management team, and involvement in key business decisions to encourage a career with your company. Leadership is a process, not a destination. A successful succession plan lies on your ability to develop your emerging leaders.
If strategies for sustaining your firm long-term are top-of-mind, contact us for a complimentary consultation on ways to develop your emerging leaders as part of a broader succession planning initiative.