Times have changed and so has the competitive landscape of business management. Traditional business models told business owners and executives that to become more competitive, you had to invent something new to sell or service, or improve an existing product or service. That was all there was to it. In general terms, the inputs and outputs haven’t changed much, but companies are continuously changing their internal processes to improve company performance. How so and what does this mean to the business world?
Repeat after me, “I will make a concerted effort to obtain top talent.”
For smaller businesses, this presents a problem. Often, smaller businesses don’t have the capital to hire superstars, and in some areas, the superstars just aren’t there. Case in point: Metropolitan New Orleans, post-Katrina. So what is a business to do when they can’t always find “the best”?
There is a solution to the depleted leadership pool. “If you can’t find them, then make them.” Remember. Leaders are created, not born. The process began with parents, teachers, and coaches. With any luck, some leadership skills were transferred during college and military stints. Often though, a person’s leadership development stagnates when he or she takes a job. It’s a shame. Many potential leaders have been ruined by a lack of mentoring, coaching, bonding, and training.
However, you don’t have to let this happen. By taking a proactive approach to your business leadership, you can keep your pipeline filled with home-grown leadership candidates. Instead of searching outwards for the “perfect” candidate, you can develop the characteristics and skills of the people you have now. Leadership is an ongoing process and keeping the flow going, you can continue to improve.
Look for “That Spark”
By “spark,” I mean the natural ability to communicate with people. Add to that, look for the ability to connect – meaning the ability to communicate and relate to people and build on this. The ability to connect is absolutely necessary because as a leader, one must have the ability to win others over. Communication, connecting, and relating are skills required to persuade…without a hammer or whip.
Train a cross section of promotable candidates on a regular basis
Create Development Plans
Create development plans for the individuals with that spark. Teach them to leverage the talents that they already have and help them figure out their leadership performance gaps. Encourage them to leverage their current talents and persuade them to develop in other areas where their skills are inadequate for a leadership role.
Don’t: Use cookie cutter development plans for all candidates. I know it’s easy to point, click, and email, but it cheapens the process…it makes it seem less sincere and more obligatory.
Do: Create specific plans for the individual. It makes the candidates feel special…like you’ve got an interest and a stake in their professional well being. After all…you do!
Coach and Mentor…Continuously, Without Annoying
Coaching and mentoring are crucial. The process starts with a relationship between you and the candidate then continues with regular bonding and nurturing. It sounds kind of “touchy-feely,” I know, but the relationship, bonding, and nurturing sessions are critical to the molding process of the candidate. You must coach candidates with the intent of creating a business partner. Get their opinion on current company challenges (be careful of the can of worms you open here.)
It’s a great conversation starter and a chance to help mold their thinking about certain business topics. Discuss together how you intend to combat them. Let them in on some info that’s not confidential, but not readily available to the troops. A great technique is to allow them to observe management meetings (With the exception of certain confidential meetings.) You are beginning to let them into your circle of leadership. Watch them blossom as they begin to feel like they are part of “The Club.”
Don’t: Coach for the sake of coaching…meaning, don’t coach if you don’t have anything to coach on. It’s both annoying and ineffective.
Do: Encourage dialogue by asking questions and telling stories. Tell stories that relate to a topic that you would like to discuss, though you should at least attempt to keep it the context of business.
I recommend that you create or outsource leadership and management training for the existing leaders and for the individuals that you would like to develop. It’s a great refresher for existing leaders and a great learning tool for prospective leaders. It’s important that you continue to train and develop your leaders and your workforce. Remember that training is a process, not an event. You should concentrate on basic leadership skills as well as management but remember to place the emphasis on leading people.
Don’t: Do a mass training event every few years with large time gaps between sessions.
Do: Establish an ongoing training program. Choose attendees for the monthly/quarterly sessions based on their specific needs, as documented in their development plans. Breaking the training up into monthly or quarterly sessions helps spread the costs out over time as well.
These recommendations seem difficult en masse, but if you break them into phases or projects, it’ll be much easier to handle. If you do the things mentioned above, you’ll have a much better chance of creating a team of superstar leaders. These superstars will align team actions with company goals and ultimately pave the way for your company’s success.
©Copyright, Mosaic Business Solutions, LLC 2008
Jarrod Clavelle is the CEO and Principle Consultant of Mosaic Business Solutions, a New Orleans-based consulting firm. Mosaic Business Solutions specializes in Organizational Development, Leadership, Sales, and Customer Service training. Go to [http://www.mosaicbusinessonline.com] for a complete listing of services.