Companies invest millions of dollars in developing employees at all levels of the organization from the senior executives to the entry level employees straight out of school. The real challenge that all companies are facing is building ‘the bench’ and preparing for the greatest shift in human capital of our time.
Who is going to be your next director of sales, marketing, innovation and human resources? Who is going to lead your organization into growth areas and identify ways to make your manufacturing and product sourcing processes more efficient? Who is going to influence people at all levels? We often think of leaders as the people who are sitting at the top of an organization, when really anyone that has the ability to align a team behind a common goal can be a leader.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by some of the best leaders in the world and they were not always my boss. They were peers, people with whom I managed, colleagues, senior executives and friends. All of these people had an impact on both my personal and professional life.
There is lots of information and tools to help you develop leaders.Below are three ways that I have found to be successful:
1. Understand that not all employees are going to be leaders nor do they want to be, therefore, it is important to be able to identify the attributes of a leader. John Keyser wrote a great article, “Developing Leadership Presence,” which highlights the basic principles of a leader.
2. Invest in a 12-month mentor/mentee program. The mentoring program should include a series of monthly meetings where both the mentor and mentee have developed clear objectives, set goals and most importantly have a strong platform which builds trust. In order for the mentoring program to be successful both the mentor and mentee must be open to receiving and providing feedback. For those of you who may be mentoring a Gen Y, remember they thrive on feedback. They want to know why and will be open to communication.
3. Sponsor and be the voice for your leader-in-training. This means working with HR and to build a strong succession plan, SMART objectives, and a career path that meets both their professional and personal goals. The career path should include lateral moves that provide cross-functional training, promotion when the leader is ready, and exposure to key stakeholders throughout the organization.
In fewer than 10 years, nearly half the working population will be Gen Y. It is imperative that companies start building their bench strength and identify their future leaders before it is too late.
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