Every aspect of corporate performance has its source in people. Your products and services, your marketing, positioning, and reputation, your quality, safety, and efficiency, your sales and thereby revenue and margins, all of these are conceived, driven, and controlled by people. The people who lead your organization’s precious talent exert tremendous leverage on performance. Those few companies that are excellent at identifying and developing top-quality leaders for pivotal and critical roles consistently outperform their peers. For example, the Hay Group’s 20 best companies for leaders delivered nearly double the S&P 500’s returns over 10 years.
Building a robust bench of future leaders and keeping that bench refreshed is challenging work. It’s not surprising that in the Deloitte 2016 Human Capital Survey, only 13% of companies rated themselves “excellent” at developing leaders. It’s likely that both you and your competitors are among the vast majority of companies who are not fully confident that they have either the bench strength they need today or the capability to build it reliably for the future. That’s the sound of opportunity knocking: companies that are good at developing leaders outperform their competition, and there aren’t a lot of companies that are good at developing leaders.
As with any work centered on people’s judgment, communication, and cross-functional collaboration, building leadership bench strength is difficult. To do it well you must foster powerful dialogue to make good decisions, take relevant action, measure results, learn, and repeat. First, reduce the complexity you can. Adopt a simple, repeatable process. Create a way of talking about leadership: a common language with meaningful terms that are relevant to your business, its ecosystem, and especially its unique culture.
It’s essential to be able to discuss leadership capabilities as well as indicators of potential. Capabilities, of course, drive performance today, which is easier for groups to observe and agree on. This is the place to start in creating a common language that describes what makes leaders thrive in your environment. You must also work to understand and define potential – indicators of people’s likely ability to perform in future, as yet unknown circumstances – in order to build bench strength you can count on.
In my session for ExecSense on building leadership bench strength, you’ll learn how to do this. You’ll learn how to create a way of discussing people’s capabilities and potential that is rooted in observable, relevant behaviors and performance. You’ll also learn how to frame, identify, and use specific kinds of experiences in order to accelerate your current and future leaders’ growth.
Building leadership bench strength is a long-term commitment. It requires persistence and the knowledge that the best results are beyond today’s horizon. Companies that build great leaders commit the time, energy, and resources to do so because they know that their people are their source of performance and competitive advantage. They know that effective leaders are a scarce and extremely valuable resource, so they invest in finding, keeping, grooming, and maximizing them. Their efforts are rewarded in many ways, from the loyalty and discretionary effort of ambitious people who appreciate opportunities to stretch and grow to the corporate performance those people deliver, and the impact your business has on the world.
President, Bench Strength Advisers
Expertise: Organizational & Leadership Development
Jonathan parlayed earlier years in creative, operational and management roles, including those with P&L responsibility, into a successful career in organizational and leadership development.