Leadership development begins day one

By: sschnipper April 21, 2024

Almost every successful business owner you speak with will tell you that their people are one of their competitive advantages. In many cases, they will say that people are the key to their success. However, developing a top-notch workforce is no small task, especially because your organization is constantly changing to adapt to market developments.

Business owners must focus on ensuring today’s managers have the skills they need to operate effectively. But having well-trained and highly skilled managers for today is not enough. You also need to ensure you are looking to the future and identifying people who can step into critical roles should a manager retire or leave the organization. I know what I am talking about, having more than once dealt with the sudden and unexpected loss of a senior leader.

Think of this as developing a strong second-string team or planting seeds for future success.

A good way to do this is to evaluate new employees for future positions during the hiring process or on their first work days. You need to understand what their current skill set is, but also what their potential is for the future. A 9 box is a good assessment tool to use to bracket your staff. You can use it to tailor coaching and development depending on where each person lands within the 9 boxes. There are other tools as well.

Gauge their enthusiasm and appetite for growth and begin working with them on developing a career path which includes providing the appropriate training that will allow them to make the next step in their job progression. To be clear, not everyone wants to take on leadership roles, and that is okay. However, you need to identify those employees that want to become leaders and work with them to develop the hard and soft skills they will need to be successful.

In addition to evaluating new employees, you must look at the overall organization. Determine which positions will likely become open in the next several years because of planned retirements. Obviously, you can’t predict when people will leave for other reasons, although you should have some inkling of employees who are not as engaged and are, therefore, more likely to leave if they receive what they think is a better offer. Target people to step into the roles you know will see a leadership change.

Task existing managers with identifying their successors and with keeping in regular contact with their staff members so they are aware of changes in an employee’s circumstances that might have an impact on their employment with your organization.

Include new employees in project teams so you can determine if they have the skills to be good team members and ascertain how well they can communicate. Both of those skills are needed by anyone in a leadership position. When you spot someone with potential, encourage them to attend industry meetings and conferences and give them assignments that stretch them to see how they rise to a challenge.

If you want to grow leaders from within, you have to plant seeds early and nurture them over time. Think of your newer employees as those seeds and make sure they get the proper care to develop into the leaders of the future.

Remember, if your business will remain profitable, you will need to begin developing tomorrow’s management team today.