Why Talent Bench Matters, Part II
If you’ve been following the MAP blog, you know that last week, I started a two-part discussion inspired by a Stanford University study on executive coaching. The research revealed what leaders could be doing more of and, in particular, how company boards are eager for CEOs to capitalize on recognizing the potential of their talent bench. The first part of this blog covered how developing your talent bench enhances everything from your hiring practices to company morale, workplace culture, and the bottom line. It’s also valuable from the standpoint of succession planning. So today, I’ve outlined three steps you can take to start cultivating the professional growth of your people.
1. Identify areas for improvement.
When it comes to recognizing potential in your people, think about ways in which you consider them underperforming or “weak.” These are not negatives, or aspects of their personality, gifts or skillset that should be seen as problematic, but opportunities to address deficits and bridge obvious gaps in understanding and/or competency. In terms of targeting areas to improve, focus on what 20% of change will net 80% of the results you’re seeking.
For example, if you’ve identified 10 things that could make Sarah more effective at her job as Team C’s supervisor, what two things will likely generate the most impact? Provide training, education, and other empowerment strategies that align to those two opportunities. And more importantly, in addition to identifying any weaknesses or deficits, remember to identify your people’s strengths. Reinforce successes, including what’s working well and the mindsets and activities that are making it all happen. Then seek out opportunities for your people to do even better and more of these kinds of things. As we talk about in MAP’s recent book, “The Disciplined Leader,” celebrate wins, then work to find more ways to help your people do more of what they’re already doing right.
Delegate more. Without question, one of the best ways to develop employees is to determine what’s on your plate that you can off-load to others–and then do it. Use delegation to motivate your people to push their comfort zones, grow professionally, and reach new heights of career achievement. I’m not just talking about handing over work for the sake of making your own “burdens” lighter. It’s true…delegating is a strategy that invariably frees you up to do more leadership-related work, so it helps you, too. But in regard to developing the talent bench, delegation is more about empowering your people with jobs and responsibilities that help them evolve into truly qualified performers as well as great candidates for future job openings in your organization. For instance, should the time come for you to move on or retire, you’ll feel much better leaving, seeing your people already know some of what it really takes to run the show.
Share your leadership. When we talk to leaders about this concept, a lot of times they are initially put back. After all, many leaders have worked hard to get to where they’re at and the very notion of “sharing” it feels threatening to their power, status, ego and even stability. But some of the greatest leaders are humble leaders, those who feel secure in the fact that they don’t have all the answers and that sharing certain aspects of their leadership with the right team members can effectively develop their talent and transform an organization for the better. One way to share your leadership is to note a weakness you have, identify those who have more natural abilities in this area, and then give them the training and support that will take their strengths to a higher level. As they develop, expect them to step in and help you more in your areas of weakness—and don’t feel threatened.
You can also share leadership by letting go of responsibilities that have previously been viewed as specific to leadership. For example, instead of leading your team meetings, share that leadership role by assigning it to others. Maybe this week, Sarah runs your team accountability meeting and, next week, it’s Jose.
Another idea: Get more participation in decision-making. Resist the common urge to call the shots all the time and, instead, collaborate more with others to solicit fresh ideas, address challenges, and problem solve. Then remember, when it’s others who come up with that winning idea or solution, recognize them not just for the answer but for them stepping up to and sharing in this leadership role.
How have you “shared your leadership” in a successful way?