The idea of having a succession plan is often associated with company ownership, but it really applies throughout any organization. When leaders move on-retiring, getting promoted or choosing to take their talents elsewhere-it can leave a significant void that can be problematic right away and for the long term.
Developing leaders from within is one of the best things you can do to ensure you don’t end up with a leadership deficiency.
A number of best practices exist with regard to internal leadership development, and they all have one thing in common: buy-in from the top is a critical component for success. In addition to saying the right things regarding the importance of “bench strength” and education/training, top leaders must continually espouse developing leaders as something that’s a highly regarded company value.
With that thought in mind, let’s take a look at three best practices that can be used to develop leaders within an organization:
Have a formal executive development program in place. This can be outsourced or run internally, and ideally it will be tiered, offering different tracks for senior managers, mid-level managers, supervisors, and even those who aspire to join the management ranks. With advances in online learning, leaders can tap into programs from wherever they’re located.
It’s best to supplement classroom training-which alone can end up being rather weak-with on-the-job experience in the form of stretch assignments and team projects that accelerate the learning process. However, collaboration and on-the-job reinforcement must remain a necessary component.
Employees need to be able to put concepts and ideas they’ve been learning to work, and they’ll benefit from receiving coaching and feedback along the way.
Encourage leaders to teach. Education comes in many forms; it can be as simple as having a discussion at a staff meeting about the work implications of an assigned article or case study. When leaders take the time to share their knowledge, what results can be quite powerful. Serving as a mentor or coach can ramp things up even more, since that provides line-of-sight support and a place to go with questions, and it may result in career-building opportunities for the person being taken under a leader’s wing.
Pay attention to the makeup of your leadership team. The need for diversity aside, it’s important to create an environment of inclusion, so people feel listened to, and believe they have a path to leadership. Ask whether you’ve inadvertently excluded women, people of color or those with varied cultural backgrounds-and what valuable points of view you are thus missing.
I’ve heard an analogy that diversity is being invited to the party, while inclusion is being asked to dance when you’re there. When people are challenged to stretch beyond what they know, that builds leaders.
When upper management supports these best practices, and makes sure that developing leaders from within is part of the company’s organizational values, the results will be far- reaching. Employees will understand where the company is trying to go and how they can play a role in getting it there, and those who seek to move into leadership roles will have the resources and well-defined pathways to make that happen.
Andrea Zintz, President, Strategic Leadership Resources We are trusted advisors on shaping the future through leadership development. Our business is developing current and future leaders and leadership teams to build the capability for fulfilling the strategic vision of their enterprise
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