Dicey senior management appointments can harm or even destroy a company’s health. Yet many organizations still promote senior leaders based on factors as capricious as last quarter’s sales performance or personal relationships. To protect against hasty decisions, more companies need to stop relying on the battlefield promotion mentality and start developing leaders with the same rigor that goes into training top athletes. Here are four steps to grooming the Olympians of the business world.
Dedicate. Recognize that leadership development requires time, money and cultural commitment on the part of both companies and executives. Like natural-born athletes who train with coaches, nutritionists and other professionals on their grueling journey to greatness, even the most talented performers need thoughtful training and development support to realize their full potential.
Rotate. Much as top athletes cross-train to improve overall fitness, high-potential designees should rotate through an array of increasingly complex and diverse managerial assignments while simultaneously participating in sophisticated management development programs. This kind of integrated and methodical executive development programming blends day-to-day hands-on work experience with practical classroom management training.
Communicate. For serious executive development to succeed, Board Directors and CEOs must communicate an unwavering commitment to ensure that those who have been identified as high-potential executives are properly career pathed through bona fide leadership development positions. Clear mandates are imperative to ensure that future leaders simultaneously participate in rigorous management development programs that are geared to prepare high-caliber executives for what lies ahead.
Evaluate. All companies, irrespective of size, should have performance management systems in place that evaluate leadership, managerial competencies and other significant factors as well as those areas requiring improvement. This system should feed into and serve as the basis of a formal succession planning process that collectively identifies and tracks the development strategy for future leaders.
Even companies with strong internal executive development programs may still need to recruit externally for various reasons; for example, a senior management position may unexpectedly open before internal talent is fully ready to advance. The bottom line is that businesses that excel at internal development and also selectively recruit externally stand the best chance of fielding a winning team.
Howard J. Gross
Managing Director, JBK Associates International