Developing competent successors prepared to fill executive-level and critical leadership roles beyond the C-suite continues to top the list of critical Human Capital concerns facing C-Level leaders looking to sustain business success now and in the long term. In a recent research survey conducted by Deloitte, despite this priority, “52% of C-level leaders and 59% of leaders waiting to be promoted into a C-Level role do not believe that their Direct Reports have the skills to assume greater leadership roles within the organization.”
At first look, these findings would tend to support the need for broader leadership development. However, the report exposes a surprising gap between what these executives are saying and what they are actually doing. The report reveals that only “49% of those in the C-suite or those in waiting are personally committed to developing leadership skills at all levels throughout the organization even though a majority of them acknowledge that their organizations support these development opportunities.” Closing the gap between words and deeds becomes more critical as Millennials take on leadership roles and organizational structure flattens. Executives and those poised for the C-suite must immediately become more personally committed to taking the actions necessary to build a solid and sustainable pipeline of successors.
Toward that end, here are five actions that executives must do to close the gap between their words and deeds:
1. Link What Your Organization Needs to Do To Sustain Growth and Success To Leadership Development Initiatives. Create the organizational strategy and plan it in a way that clearly identifies which roles, skills, and competencies are needed to bring about sustained growth and success. Focus on linking all development plans but especially those of potential leaders, with the overall strategic objectives for the organization. Be clear and consistent in communicating that leveraging the powerful synergy between individual achievement and organizational success is your priority. The result will be results-driven, people-focused leaders ready to step into c-level roles and deliver bottom-line results.
2. Broaden and Deepen Leadership Development Initiatives Beyond the C-Level and Senior Leaders. Extending leadership development initiatives and programs several layers below the executive level will support the creation of a solid leadership pipeline not only at the highest levels but also in all areas that are critical to organizational success. Link all talent management initiatives together so that there is consistency across the organization with regard to recruitment and development.
3. Expand and Diversify Assignments Across the Organization for Those in The Leadership Pipeline. Ask that future leaders and those in critical roles have the opportunity to have rotational assignments within the organization and participate in high-profile projects. Rotational assignments support exposure to wide-ranging experiences that foster the building of knowledge and relationships while providing the exposure needed to establish the credibility to assume more significant roles.
4. Establish Relationships Between Those in Leadership and Those in The Pipeline. Establish and encourage mentoring or coaching relationships between those already in critical roles on a one-to-one or small group basis with those identified as future leaders to encourage more purposeful interactions between the groups. Align your formal development programs and training to support and encourage formal as well as informal learning. Implement processes to encourage the handing down of historical, institutional knowledge so that after others are gone, new leaders can leverage and build upon it.
5. Hold Yourself and Other Senior Leaders Accountable. Model and communicate the behaviors above along with others that you believe will lead to the development of bench strength within your organization. Solicit feedback from key stakeholders about how you are performing against your objectives, make these part of your performance appraisal process, and link them to the overall business strategy to help plan your individual goals.
These actions might not be new to you. However, implementing them requires more than just awareness and acknowledgment—it requires a willingness to turn words into action.