Utilizing universal character traits such as work ethic, judgment, natural leadership and good communication skills will ensure a higher rate of success.
By Steve Sandman
One of the most important responsibilities any operation’s current leadership has is its development of future leadership and ensuring that transition is smooth and seamless.
As they say, it’s easy to talk the talk, but much more difficult to walk the walk.
I’ve had the opportunity over the years, going as far back as my early 20s as a training and development manager at R.J. Reynolds to learn about what works and what doesn’t. To assist in my success in training the next generation of leaders, I developed a simple acronym that helped me stay on track and prepare the next set of leadership: INVEST.
A critical aspect in leader development is identifying the right skill set. Many skills are unique to a job position and are not easily transferable; meaning just because someone is currently in charge of coordinating your advertising, doesn’t mean they should head up your marketing department. Utilizing universal character traits such as work ethic, judgment, natural leadership and good communication skills will ensure a higher rate of success.
Nurturing is defined as ‘to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster.’ While it’s obvious to support a future leader’s work on a specific project, there are many other areas where one can provide this key element. For example, inviting your employee to attend events outside their normal scope of daily work such as a trade show or conference you attend, a social function such as a dinner, or even a more senior management meeting.
Let your employees see you in a variety of settings, give them your insight into how you think in these situations, and provide feedback as to how they conducted themselves in venues they may not be familiar with.
We often find ourselves hesitant to “put ourselves out there” when talking to an employee about what their future might look like, as we fear it may not work out, providing that long term roadmap provides a great incentive for commitment, enthusiasm, and dedication as you ask your future leader to embrace taking on more responsibility and longer hours.
You can avoid the verbal contract an employee might interpret by talking in terms of your company and what kind of a person is a future leader.
Education comes in many forms, and it’s not always the most obvious such as sending your future leader to seminars and conferences. The most important knowledge is that you’re able to share including your success stories and failures, and what you learned from all of those experiences.
It’s a great idea to have the employee spend time with others that have been put into positions of future leadership already, and to also to have them spend time outside of their group department.
Stimulating your candidates thought process is one of the truly fun areas of the development process and will also contribute greatly to establishing a trust and rapport between you both. Try putting your employee in hypothetical situations, along with yourself, and ask them to think about how to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity, and that you will do the same. Set up a time frame and get back together to see what you both developed for solutions, compare those ideas and settle on how you would go forward.
Time is the most important element of developing your future leader, and that means YOUR time! All of the ideas, investments, and intentions you have are worthless unless you dedicate your time to your future leader’s advancement. If you invest the time in your candidate, you’ll see your work load lighten up as you will delegate more work to the up and coming leader.
As a senior leader in your company, developing future talent and making the transition as smooth as possible is one of your greatest responsibilities. By utilizing the INVEST outline, it can serve as a helpful reminder to establish effective workforce guidelines.