Have you identified the emerging leaders in your organization? If you assume that the next in line for a top position is the logical employee for your succession plans, you may be selecting the wrong person, according to Anne Hach, the executive director of training and development at Cleveland-based Corporate College.
“Business owners hurt themselves twice when they simply move technically competent employees up to leadership roles without preparing them,” Hach says. “Once by removing good employees from jobs they performed well, and again when the employees step into the new role, which they can’t do adequately because they have not been properly trained.”
Smart Business spoke with Hach about the importance of identifying and training emerging leaders in order to create a seamless transition when succession occurs.
How can business owners successfully identify emerging leaders?
Those companies that successfully identify leaders understand what qualities they need in a leader. Some leadership competencies are universal, such as communication skills, good self-control, delegation skills and decision-making abilities. However, depending on the organization — and the industry — other competencies will be needed. It all depends on the culture and mission of a business. For example, in the information-technology-centered organization, a leader not only needs basic competencies but also strong creative thinking and innovation skills.
If leaders are not readily apparent, what can a business owner do to cultivate leaders in the company?
You need to design your business culture so that there are opportunities for emerging leaders to shine. For example, there are companies that keep decision-making high up on the corporate ladder, leaving little opportunity for those further down the ladder to hone their leadership abilities.
Leaders can also be found among managers who are excelling in their roles or among employees who have been recognized for technical competence and show pronounced leadership abilities — as witnessed in meetings, projects or other areas.
Once emerging leaders are identified, what are the next steps?
You need to train these emerging leaders on an ongoing basis. This kind of training can be done through formal or informal programs. Employees can participate in training sessions or work with in-house mentors or coaches. The training needs to strengthen the core leadership skills, plus any other leadership skills you have identified that are important to the business.
What can happen if a business does not identify and adequately train emerging leaders?
This kind of succession planning — at all levels of management — is critical for sustained growth of a company. Without it, what usually happens when a current leader retires or leaves the company is that the warm body most readily at hand — usually the next in line for the job — is promoted without much thought or preparation.
This is a strain for the company since it leaves a gaping hole in the employee’s former position until a new employee gets up to speed. Plus, the promotion of the individual is often from a technical position to a leadership position — without proper training, an employee can flounder in this new role, potentially damaging the morale and performance of other employees. This very common business scenario can be avoided with proper planning and preparation.
Could you summarize the steps necessary to groom emerging leaders?
- Hire for talent, not position.
- Provide opportunities for informal
leadership at all levels of the company.
- Create and implement a succession
plan for each position.
- Define competencies of successful
leaders and provide training.
- Provide mentoring and coaching for
ANNE HACH is the executive director of training and development at Corporate College (www.corporatecollege.com) based in Cleveland, which offers employers custom-designed training programs to enhance future work force development, job growth and job retention in Northeast Ohio. Reach her at (440) 522-5072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.