Grow your managers

Six steps to develop leaders

Creating a leadership development process isn’t so hard if you know what to do.

That’s why so few companies don’t have a legitimate one, even though they say they do.

“Yes, we send people to the first-line supervisor course at the technical college.”

But the CEO is overworked just keeping the company going. 

“Yes, I know I should have a good process, but I don’t know how and don’t have the time.”

Here’s what to do:

Step 1. Make a list of about a half dozen of your direct reports. Next to their names, write the names of their backups, the people who will be ready to step into their jobs within two years. 

See a lot of blanks? That should worry you.

Having a leadership development process is a requirement for two reasons, no matter how small your organization. 

First, good people don’t want to work for a company that isn’t developing their expertise and giving them more responsibility. Second, the ability to grow is directly related to the degree of advanced leadership skills in your organization.

Step 2. For each position, develop a list of leadership competencies; those that are unique to success in that position.

Start with your senior leaders. They already have competencies like problem-solving, conflict resolution, influencing others and project management – skills that were required when they were first-time, first-line supervisors. And they’re already good at such middle management competencies as managing and measuring work, setting priorities, planning, hiring and staffing, getting results and building teams.

Senior leaders need to be able to deal with ambiguity; develop and motivate with purpose and vision; stimulate innovation; possess political savvy; understand process development; manage change; and more.

You need a list of competencies developed by experts. Go to Amazon and order “For Your Improvement: A Guide for Development and Coaching,” by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger. It includes more than 60 competencies. Each explains why it’s important and how to recognize when it’s done well or overused, and includes a long list of things a leader can do to improve.

Develop a list of eight to 10 competencies for each position, including yours.

Step 3. On a scale of 1 to 10, assess the leader on each competency.

Step 4. Review the competencies and your assessment with the leader, and suggest your own ideas and those from the book on how the leader can improve.

Step 5. Both of you should choose three or four initiatives the leader will work on this year. These are a key part of the leader’s annual development plan, leading to the year-end “development review” that replaces the performance review.

Step 6: Each leader must have a coach and be a coach.

Coaching is not mentoring. Mentors offer guidance from their own experience and don’t necessarily help their protégés think better. That’s what coaching does. It’s the process of understanding what leaders want to accomplish, asking questions that help them understand what is and isn’t working, and helping them decide what to do to improve.

CEOs of large companies have organizational development experts who are certified in helping to develop leaders. Smaller companies don’t have that luxury and can benefit from this simple-to-use, six-step system.

It requires a lot of your attention. You’ll learn new traits around competencies and coaching, and it will help you fulfill one of the most important jobs of a CEO: developing leaders.

Quotes on coaching

Here’s what leadership experts say about coaching:

“Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.”

– Atul Gawande, author, surgeon and public health researcher.

“It’s helping them to learn, rather than teaching them.”

– Tim Gallwey, author.

“Very few people achieve lasting, positive change without ongoing follow-up.”

– Marshall Goldsmith, author.

“All coaching is, is taking a person where he can’t take himself.”

– former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney.

If you’re looking for another resource, buy the book “Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development” by Rick Tiemann, an executive coach and expert in assessment tools. For two decades, he has helped companies develop these processes.

We might not need world-class leaders. But we need effective leaders who are always striving to improve in our own little worlds.

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