Virginia Albanese Featured

8:01pm EDT March 31, 2011
Virginia Albanese

Building a leadership team should be at the forefront of developing and implementing business strategy. While the strategy sets the direction of a company, the executive leadership team and those in the manager and supervisory roles are key factors of a company’s future success or failure.

To get it right, start by taking an inventory of your leadership team’s current skills, abilities and experiences, and then match the inventory results to what is required for your strategy. This exercise will reveal any large gaps in talent, or it will display how well your team is aligned to the strategy. In most cases, the findings will be somewhere in between, with many excellent matches and a few people who need retooling for new job positions or opportunities. The key here is to take an honest and realistic view of your leadership team so you can determine where you need to strengthen your talent pool.

Your work does not stop there. Take this same approach with every level of the organization. Leaders at each level must be prepared with the right technical, managerial and leadership skills for executing the strategy with confidence while assuming accountability for the results. The managerial and supervisory positions will likely be the implementers of strategy and change. They can have the greatest impact on achieving your company’s strategic success.

When conducting the talent review inventory, look closely at the team’s diversity. This not only means the traditional gender, race, orientation and age characteristics but also diversity of opinions, perspectives and work styles.

For example, at our company, we use a variety of tools for determining a team member’s development strengths and opportunities. A few years ago, our leaders completed an assessment for improving personal and professional effectiveness. The results gave us valuable insight into how the differing work styles impacted others in the organization. We discovered some leaders loved detail; the more data and analysis the better. They could be counted on to ask lots of questions and needed time to come to a conclusion or take action. In contrast, some leaders trusted their gut feelings and were quick to take action with little data. We had a mix of leaders who required high involvement with others and leaders who preferred an individual work style.

While diversity in style can cause frustrating moments, with education and reinforcement, you can capitalize on the power of having such a diverse group of leaders who complement and appreciate each other.

In addition to examining your leadership pool, you must also plan for the future. This involves more than putting words to a page; it has to involve your people. While you need to develop an actionable strategy with company revenues and profits that project into the next three to five years, oftentimes, a forgotten step is working with the human resources leader. He or she can help build a foundation through succession planning and employee development programs.

I am proud to say that our company has taken succession planning and organizational design to a new level by identifying pivotal jobs necessary for our company’s strategy. While this level of detail is led by human resources, succession planning must be owned by the executive leadership team; they are accountable for the current and future success of the organization.

Upfront work on establishing the right team is a vital first step for achieving the company’s vision and mission. Planning for the future includes staying focused on business metrics, which includes generating revenue, building a strong talent pool and valuing diversity in leadership and work styles. These are the components that pay off in excellent company results and the achievement of your strategic initiatives.

Virginia Albanese is president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, North America’s largest critical-shipment carrier. The company provides 24/7 service throughout the United States, Canada and internationally, delivering hundreds of thousands of critical shipments each year. She is also the chairwoman of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and serves on a number of other boards to benefit the Northeast Ohio community, including Akron Children’s Hospital and The Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve.