Investing in the development of employees is not only beneficial to the employee, but I believe it’s become a requirement to having a healthy and sustainable organization. As the president of an IT services firm, I’ve found that no company is perfect; many have gaps when it comes to training future leaders — and it’s something that deserves attention.
Do you spend enough time with your next level of leaders to know if they’re ready to move up? Are you training your replacement right now? According to the 2018 State of Leadership Development research report by Harvard Business Publishing (registration required), there is a growing need for businesses to focus on teaching and developing new leaders. The study found that 80% of organizations believe greater innovation is needed in learning and development programs. And of the companies that saw learning and development as “critical to success,” 66% were better positioned in the market over competitors.
The term “millennial” is often associated with negative stereotypes, but the reality is, this group is the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, and in 2015, 15% of the demographic comprised management roles. But as more baby boomers retire, more leadership positions will be available for millennials to potentially fill.
I believe our biggest opportunity for closing the gap that we currently have is to tap into the next generation’s drive and motivation. It is critical that we not only embrace and harness that determination but also guide it in the right direction so we have leaders who are prepared and capable when their time comes to lead. If we are to rely on these emerging leaders for their decision-making processes and leadership ability in the future, what are we doing today to set them up for success?
Identify future leaders in your company.
To invest in future business leaders, it’s important to first identify who on your team could be a great fit to lead. In my experience, to be a truly impactful and intuitive leader, the areas of emotional strength, self-awareness and coaching capabilities come into play. When describing what a next-level leader looks like, you might think of qualities such as presence or charisma. Although those are good qualities and something you can (and should) look for in a future leader, there are a number of other areas that should be examined as well.
First, look at who in your team is motivated and has a willingness to dive in. This isn’t only about working hard and putting in long hours, but rather having the drive to grow and become better. I believe possessing a growth mindset is one of the key indicators of a potential next-level leader because they’ll not only want to grow themselves, but they will also look for ways to grow and invest in others. Look at those who already behave in this way. Are they someone who helps others improve? When they’re already willing to invest in the team around them, they’re growing themselves in the process. And I believe when the collective ability in the room goes up, everyone wins.
A positive attitude and one’s ability to receive feedback are also important aspects of identifying and developing a next-generation leader. Find those who believe there is a potential solution to every challenge. In my experience, these folks are often the ones who find the “third alternative” and a solution that brings together two potentially disparate choices. With that, they should be able to take constructive criticism and seek feedback positively, as well as apply any suggestions they receive. Incorporating feedback from those who experience you first-hand is a key part of being a leader because it breeds the safety you need in order to lean in and do the hard things.
Spend significant time helping them grow.
If we are going to rely on these emerging leaders for their decision making processes and leadership abilities in the future, ask yourself, “How am I setting them up for learning and testing right now?” For example, when my company began building its leadership program, we first looked at the areas of knowledge that a future leader would need, such as how the business works. I also believe it’s important to consider the areas of emotional strength, self-awareness and coaching capabilities. In my experience, these are important when leading a company.
Without emotional intelligence, you run the risk of leaving behind far too many people to make you an effective leader. Focusing in on these areas has allowed my company to grow and develop a program that shares the basics of our brand and what goes into serving our customers. By widening your scope of leadership training to include areas such as emotional strength and self-awareness, you’re providing future leaders with the tools necessary for assessing and growing their communication styles and mindsets, as well as building personal development into their regular routines. Identify those who are rising leaders, and spend significant time with them — regularly. I believe this will help you stay focused on what keeps your business running and how you’re doing as a leader, while also creating a significant corporate currency with participants.
Spending time on growing these next-level leaders is hard work, but it’s important work for us to be doing right now. We can no longer rely on our current programs to carry us forward, so start today; invest in them to help them grow and reach their full potential (and maybe even to grow ourselves in the process).