Developing leaders at various levels in an organization is a strategic imperative for most businesses. Yet it falls into the “important and not urgent” box on an Eisenhower Matrix (also known as Urgent-Important Matrix), often getting sidelined by necessary day-to-day tasks and the unexpected issues that require time-sensitive attention.
Consequently, leadership development initiatives don’t get the focused attention and resources required to cultivate the next generation of leaders that are necessary for businesses to stay competitive and to fill the leadership gaps that are being created by the thousands of Baby Boomers that are exiting the workforce daily.
A survey I recently conducted of Lakeland-based CEOs in collaboration with the Lakeland Economic Development Council confirms the need for businesses to proactively grow their leadership bench. However, insights from the survey indicate many local businesses are not actively engaged in proven practices designed to grow and empower their talent. While 70% of CEOs surveyed reported challenges developing leadership readiness to support a leadership succession plan –
- 53% of companies don’t provide formal mentoring at any level
- 41% of companies don’t provide executive coaching at any level
- 40% of companies don’t provide 360-degree feedback at any level
Equally concerning, the survey revealed that forty percent of executives provide feedback to direct reports on an “as needed” basis with less than 20% indicating they provide formal feedback at regularly expected intervals in the form of quarterly, semi-annual, or annual performance reviews. The “as-needed” approach only works well in organizations that have cultivated a culture of providing real-time meaningful feedback where leaders are skilled at coaching, providing constructive criticism, and positive reinforcement. Even in the most open and transparent leadership cultures, the “as-needed” approach to feedback needs to be balanced and bolstered with additional approaches including assessment tools and formalized methods of feedback to achieve the highest level of effectiveness.
Like all professional athletes, all employees need mentoring, coaching, and feedback to perform at their best and stay competitive and Millennials, who will make up more than one-third of the American workforce by 2020, crave this more than other generational groups. They want to be engaged and coached and understand how their role fits into the overarching mission and vision of the organization. Smart companies will encourage these qualities.
To prepare Millennials or any employee for a leadership role, businesses must foster an environment that offers greater awareness of one’s leadership strengths and liabilities. A best practice in leadership development is the use of 360-degree leadership assessment tools – and most especially when its used as a platform for creating a purposeful and meaningful development plan. The “360-degree” part of the assessment means that peers, superiors, and direct reports provide feedback to the leader. The information that is gathered then provides a comprehensive view of a leader’s creative competencies that add value and reactive styles that cause setbacks. Through these tools and the perspectives they provide, leaders gain deeper insight into their behavior, what is driving it, and how it impacts their ability to lead effectively. The 360- degree assessments, like The Leadership Circle Profile™, are designed to improve leadership effectiveness by revealing the underlying assumptions that drive thoughts and behavior, creating opportunities for leaders to make more conscious choices about how they are showing up and the impact they are having on others.
When a leader has the opportunity to truly understand how others experience their leadership style, without defending or judging, they have the insight necessary to make transformational shifts in their leadership approach, achieve more impactful results, and do so in a more sustainable fashion. This knowledge and understanding reduces the potential for blind spots and derailment and accelerates the leadership development process.
While it is critical that the CEO of any organization spearhead a strategy for leadership development, the CEO cannot champion this effort alone. Executed well, it requires a system-wide approach and a sustainable continuum that is being driven by the human resources function of the business. This requires that the human resources department spend more time attracting, developing, and engaging top talent and less time on administrative and compliance tasks while ensuring that the employee development plan is prioritized and aligned with the strategic vision of the organization. Additionally, influential human resource departments also ensure that high-potential talent is identified early, engaged, and managers are effectively trained in how to provide effective feedback – both informally and formally – and how to conduct a meaningful performance evaluation.
As the pace of change accelerates and the talent gaps further widen, the risk associated with lagging leadership development increases. Leadership development initiatives are quickly falling into the “important and urgent” box amplifying the need for businesses to focus attention and resources on this strategic imperative.
Grow with purpose…