Have you Identified the Future Leaders for Your Business?

Have you Identified the Future Leaders for Your Business?

April 8, 2016 Leadership

Who has the leadership capability to take your business into the future?

As a business leader or owner, you won’t be in your role forever.  You may change companies, decide to scale down or retire from your business – whichever path you take, knowing that you will leave your current business in the right hands is essential.

Succession planning is intrinsically linked with the ongoing development of leaders within the business: identifying people with the right potential, identifying the skills required for business success, and committing to the ongoing coaching of your people.

A common complaint from CEOs is that they spend too much time ‘in’ the business rather than ‘on’ the business. Delve into why that’s happening, and ultimately it’s because the calibre of leadership skills in their people is not where they’d like it to be.  There’s often a recurring theme – people find themselves in their role because they’ve been in the business for a long time, you could say they’ve grown up with the business, never had any formal leadership development, and subsequently aren’t really operating at the level they need to be.  Subsequently the CEO is taking up the slack due to the skills gap.

So what are the critical leadership requirements to drive a business forward?  In a Stephenson Mansell study of 76 C-suite leaders, 53% cited ‘Agility, flexibility and innovation to manage through ambiguity, complexity and change’; and 26% of respondents also chose “People leadership and talent development”.

Let’s distil this down to simply the ability to lead and drive change, and the ability to grow and develop people – skills that are often not taught.  Having a development plan in place to foster those skills now becomes a critical part of succession planning.  According to research from Bersin and Associates, “51% of organisations indicated gaps in their leadership pipeline and 37% see filling key positions as a challenge. However 63% of organisations indicated that they do not have an enterprise wide succession planning process.”

Succession plans don’t need to be complex – identify key roles in the business and start to understand who within the business could step up into those roles.  With that framework in place, start to implement targeted development initiatives with individuals who have the leadership potential, so you can start to grow future capability.

So, who has the potential to learn the new skills or the capabilities required to move the business forward? According to the C-suite leaders in Stephenson Mansell research, their parameters for defining leadership potential (i.e. what is it about a leader that makes you believe they have the potential for broader roles in the future?) included; communication, charisma, and influencing skills, raised by 38% of participants; self-awareness, EQ and empathy (26%; long-term view and vision/future orientation (26%); empowering people leadership (25%); and 17% raised the importance of a developmental mindset, incorporating the ability to learn from experiences and mistakes.

For your organisation, ask yourself two questions: Is your business the same today as it was five years ago?” and “Is it going to be the same in the next five years?”  If you replied “no it’s not!” then you’re not alone.  The conclusion that many businesses come to is that due to the changing nature of business over time, the people who made us great in the past aren’t necessarily going to be the same people who will make us great going into the future.

Some businesses hire externally for leadership roles, and this may be the right approach for strategic reasons such as a transformation in culture, or taking the business in a new direction.  However, having a transparent leadership development pathway in place allows staff to understand their opportunities, plays a role in retention, and ultimately future proofs your business.

Businesses require a personalised approach to developing leaders.  Expensive, generic training courses are not the answer, and many business leaders will know this intuitively – people return from the course and go back to what they’ve always done.  Training is a one-off event, usually with no accountability, whereas true development is a life-long journey. 

The leadership development pathway should not only include identification of roles and individuals, but proactive management of this pipeline of emerging leaders, as well as investment of time and money to nurture their development with senior leader sponsorship and role modelling.

What leadership development steps have you taken to future proof your business?

For more information or help, contact Talent Code on 1300 559585 or info@talentcode.com.au

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