Jocelyn Bérard, M.Ps. MBA is the Vice President of International Leadership and Business Solutions (Vice-président Leadership et Solutions d’Affaires — Internationale) at Global Knowledge Canada
Last week I started talking about the importance of discovering and developing tomorrow’s leaders today. There are some more very important points I want to add, so here we go!
Diagnose Before You Prescribe
Just like identifying the best high-potential athletes doesn’t make them ready for the Olympics, identifying your organization’s high-potential leaders is only one of the steps you need to set your company in the right direction. You also have to define activities that will accelerate your leaders’ development and get them ready to lead.
To do that effectively, you need to identify what each high-potential leader is missing. Develop a Success Profile — that is, determine what it takes to be successful in the targeted positions. Consider competencies, knowledge, work experience/job challenges, personal attributes, and motivation for success. For instance, work experience/job challenges are the kinds of situations a leader should have already experienced. Knowledge is the degree of understanding that a director/executive must have about how the organization operates, including functions, processes, systems, and services.
Once you defined and documented the Success Profile, perform a comprehensive diagnostic that determines the strengths and development needs of the high-potential candidates in each category. This allows you to create a personalized and effective development plan. After all, a specific prescription can’t be created without the diagnostic.
How do you accelerate the development of people who are already too busy? A simple method combines two key principles: focus on a few critical and unique development needs and leverage learning-by-experience as much as possible. Since the diagnostic allows you to find out what’s critical and missing for high-potential leader X, which is probably different than high-potential leader Y, you can limit the one-size-fits-all solutions. Focused development means less wasted time by maximizing effort and investment.
Formal training is helpful and necessary. Still, if we assume that we learn 10% from formal education, 20% from others, and 70% by doing, using work experience and job challenges as a way to grow high-potential leaders makes a huge difference. Select appropriate projects, assignments, tasks, committee memberships, and pair your high-potential leaders with key stakeholders.
From Confusion to Acceleration
Though executives talk about leadership high-potential, it’s still a fairly young and sometimes confusing concept that can lead to little consensus and output. Some rigor in its definition and improving consistent utilization can yield better results. Using leadership potential factors also brings better predictability.
The work is far from over after you identify high-potential leaders. Accelerating their development is the most valuable contribution to prepare them for succession. The ultimate measure of a succession management process is not simply a list of names — it’s a pool of ready leaders who have the competencies, experience, knowledge, and personal attributes required to achieve today’s and tomorrow’s organizational business objectives.