When You Need Leaders Fast
Most of us leading organizations are thinking about it all the time. Great strategy means nothing if you don’t have the people to make it happen.
If you want to lead, if you want to accelerate your growth, if you want to energize your company, you need to have a talent management system that produces leaders.
In Leaders Ready Now: Accelerating Growth in a Faster World, authors Matthew Paese, Ph.D., Audrey B. Smith, Ph.D., and William C. Byham, Ph.D. share their collective wisdom about talent and leadership. All three authors are employed by DDI helping organizations grow their own leaders.
I recently spoke with Matt about the new book and the extensive research on talent and growing leaders in organizations.
Study: Leadership readiness is stagnant even among companies with leadership programs.
Managing Talent in Your Organization
What’s working and not working with today’s talent management systems?
What’s working is that we know how to build processes, tools, and technology to help leaders learn. What’s not working is that all this “stuff” fails to generate the energy that fuels real growth. In fact, more often than not, the initiatives that are put in place to accelerate the growth of talent drain energy instead of creating it.
The learning experiences that leaders describe as the most beneficial are not necessarily the ones that we design for them. They tend to be the ones that happen on the fly. So we have to find ways to make the tools, technology and learning experiences that we design more useful and powerful on a day-to-day basis.
Make Leadership Development A Top Priority
With the increasing pressure to deliver immediate financial results, some leaders may discount leadership development. How do you make it a top business priority and keep it there where it belongs even in tough times?
There is a simple answer to this one: keep score or don’t play. But you can’t just keep score of anything. When we say ‘keep score,’ we mean something very specific. Frankly, this is where many companies get it wrong. It’s important to remember that most organizations invest in development so that they can create more capability, and they need it now, but they don’t keep score that way. It’s routine to see organizations declare growth-focused objectives while they only keep score of learning activity, engagement, or retention. It’s like scoring a basketball game by keeping track of how many players are on the court. It’s just not the right metric. Eventually people lose interest and frustration sets in, so programs become difficult to sustain.
A classic example of keeping score of the wrong thing is tracking how many people have development plans or how many people were satisfied with a learning initiative. Those may be interesting metrics, but they don’t say much about what happened to leadership capability as a result of the effort.
“Each time you give up on a leader, you drain energy from your acceleration system.”
A measure of growth tracks the application of what has been learned or may keep track of changes in leadership readiness. For example, some organizations have begun scoring ‘conversions,’ which involve converting a leader from ‘not ready’ to ‘ready now.’ If you set targets against conversions (instead of learning activity or engagement) and establish clear accountability for who is responsible for generating them, the dynamics of a leadership acceleration system change dramatically, and management becomes much more competitive (in a good way) about growing talent.
Accelerating Talent Growth
1: Commit: adopt acceleration as a business priority.
2: Aim: define leadership success for your business context.
3: Identify: make efficient, accurate decisions about whom to accelerate.
4: Assess: accurately evaluate readiness gaps and give great feedback.
5: Grow: make the right development happen.
6: Sustain: aggressively manufacture the energy for growth.
Talk about leadership context and why it matters to leadership development.
In today’s environment, business context means constant change. This means that development needs to move at the speed of change. Learning content, and the tools, support, and technology that leaders need to apply it, must be directly applicable to their most pressing challenges. They simply don’t have time or mindshare to engage in the sort of extracurricular development that traditionally characterized leadership development.
If formal learning is to make a positive business difference, it must be supported by readily available and easy-to-use tools, job aids, technology, networks, and management support. Organizing these assets isn’t rocket science, but when it’s done right, the results show it. Decades of experience and research have generated big data that now shows convincingly that a handful of the right principles and practices make a profound difference in the outcomes of leadership development that is built to be context-specific.