Develop your leadership team

Tom Cromwell
Group president
Kohler Power Systems
N7650 CTH LS, Kohler
Industry: Engines and power systems
Employees: 5,000

Tom Cromwell has held numerous leadership roles in the equipment manufacturing industry and is taking the recent success he’s had transforming the engine division at Kohler Co. into his new role as president of Kohler’s Power group, which includes the company’s global engines and power generator business. Business achievement depends on supporting employee growth, he says.

“If you want to drive successful business results, focus your efforts on developing your team of leaders so they can achieve them.  

“Fundamentally, high-performing individuals can be successful in virtually any job, given some training and support, because they are personally driven to achieve results. They will spend their energies overcoming barriers that inevitably arise in any business rather than being limited by them. Thus, company leaders should make talent management and development one of their core priorities.

“In Kohler Engines over the last five years, we changed our hiring and promotion of talented performers. That has allowed us to achieve results, boost employee engagement and build a stable of emerging leaders.

“In addition to educational background, technical competence and business acumen, assess an individual’s capability for leadership. If he has potential, consider giving him cross-functional assignments early in his career to broaden his background – something that will stretch him, while offering an off ramp if the role is not a good fit.

“While external hires may be more seasoned initially, it will take them significantly longer to learn your business and culture, so even though it may feel more risky, stretching people who’ve been successful in smaller roles internally is usually a better path. In addition to building your talent pool, this philosophy also drives employee engagement. Your workforce begins to view employment with your organization not as a job but as a career.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to talent management. You have to create people-specific development plans based on individual needs and ensure a strong work culture that drives accountability. Ultimately, invest in results-focused individuals and develop a culture based on integrity and accountability. When you get everyone in the organization moving in the same direction, momentum picks up and you’ll see your successes multiply.”

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