If you pull aside your average mid-level manager to ask them about their most meaningful leadership development experience, the chances are good that they will need more than just a few moments to recall their best experience. This is also assuming that they ever had a meaningful leadership development session. Unfortunately, this is a common problem. Far too often, the day-to-day operations overshadows time for leadership development. Yet without training and development, the organization becomes stagnant.
The Tenure Trap
The prevailing attitude in business circles is that the focus on training should be for newer employees. This implies that tenured employees don’t need development. That’s like saying a knife doesn’t need sharpening simply because it’s serviced you faithfully for a long time.
Setting New Expectations
Nothing in today’s business environment should be viewed without also examining the bigger picture. When leaders miss the mark, blaming them without examining the greater environment is impolite at best and a gross lapse in personnel management at worst. Assessment is the best way to measure leaders in a way that produces tangible data. We can then use the results to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the employee in question, and set new expectations.
It bears repeating that it is not worth it to set new expectations without measuring what’s already present within the organization.
Could Simple Assessments Have Uncovered These Historical Mistakes?
A troubled string of unethical business deals. Stagnant earnings despite multiple acquisitions. Limited insights and weak execution leading to slumped sales. All of these examples are from the very public failings of leaders that were once celebrated: Doug Ivester of Coca-Cola, Jill Barad of Mattel, and the infamous Jeffrey Skilling of Enron.
Could leadership assessments have provided more insights into the weaknesses that ended up seriously damaging the company, both in terms of profitability as well as increasing reputational risk throughout the organization?
Naturally, hindsight is always clearer than being right in the middle of the battle, but assessments do give a clearer picture of employees, including the leadership that is trusted with the core mission of the business.
Reassurances for Implementers
- Is the data enough to make decisions without people? No. (You’ll still need meetings.)
- Are we still going to have to revisit this topic frequently? Yes.
- Can we be assured that we’re providing not just basic onboarding, but extended support? Absolutely.
All roads lead to leadership development, whether an organization realizes it or not.
Always Time to Correct Course
When faced with the presence of leaders that aren’t living up to their full potential, it is natural to feel that it is impossible to correct course, or that there just isn’t enough time to not only assess and analyze but also implement a new plan. The truth is that there is always time to correct course.
Remember that while there are timeless, innate, and necessary characteristics of good leaders, the reality is that great leaders are built. They do not happen by chance, despite many reports to the contrary.
Instead of chasing the perfect candidate that will take a team, department, or section to greater heights, take the time to cultivate the leaders that you already have. Examine their strengths and celebrate them regularly, but also make room for leadership development to form the cornerstone of your business.
This is what it means to embrace a growth mindset within the organization.
There is always time to correct course and embrace transforming the leaders you already have into the leaders your organization truly needs. Not only is this a positive for the business, but it’s also a signal to all employees that your company is walking the walk instead of just sending yet another email full of promises.
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Growth usually takes on one of two very distinct pathways: a linear path and an exponential one. The latter sounds great, right? Just pull a few levers and watch your organization reap the benefits of exponential growth, making all of your dreams come true. Wait till that next quarterly review, you’ll show them you mean business!
Except that isn’t the entire story, and consistent leadership development results are better than exponential growth that isn’t sustainable.
So why talk about exponential growth in the domain of creating better leaders in the workplace? Well, because it never hurts to have something to aspire to. It never hurts to see what can indeed happen when consistent action is scaled out. That’s the key to making leadership development a potent component in today’s fast paced business environment.
What does feedback really mean? We talk about feedback, but we know that not all feedback is created equal. Feedback should begin with empathy, which is truly understanding the other person's perspective. From there, we want to come forward with evidence that backs up the statements we're going to make to that person. Direct, professional, and straightforward is the name of the game here.
Feedback and accountability go hand in hand within the world of strategically assessing leadership strengths and weaknesses.
What Comprehensive Feedback Isn't
Sometimes it's important to highlight what something isn't before we can really start visualizing what it is constructively. If you want to build or even transform current feedback and accountability processes, here's what to avoid most:
Relying on one assessment. There is no perfect assessment, and it's critical to avoid idolizing any assessment as the One True Measure of performance
Keeping resources too narrow. This isn't about trying to use as few resources as possible. Pull out all of the tools and see what's reasonable in terms of the specific leader being refined for greater opportunities (the ultimate goal)
Don't settle for just covering strengths and weaknesses in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Full insight requires full analysis; KPIs are just a shortcut.
Collecting quantitative data is important, but don’t skip the opportunities to collect qualitative data along the way as well. For example,
Breaking Down Strategic Leadership Assessment - The Best Path Forward for Growth
In order to get the growth needed to stay competitive, it's time to go back to the drawing board. What does strategic leadership assessment look like in action? Well, the important point is that it begins with realizing the end goal: you're getting insight into an individual's makeup and identifying what their true strengths and weaknesses are. We're going back to the 3D Leadership model as one of the key foundational points of this plan.
Staying the Course
Motivation is a big topic in the business world because we're used to watching people quit. Why do people quit before they've reached the finish line? Sometimes it's a matter of not being able to visualize the end. Or perhaps it's not having enough milestones to reflect upon as they move deeper into their journey. Not everyone will finish their leadership development plan, or approach it with enthusiasm.
Reassurance isn't a bad thing, and it can help bolster morale to the point where employees buy back in. For entry-level employees, leadership development can feel impossible because they're starting their journey with a lot to cover. For the more seasoned leader, development often takes a "been there, done that" feeling.
Dive Deeper Into Refinement With Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development
Digging into the roots of better leadership development isn’t an easy journey. Yet it is absolutely essential for companies of all sizes.
Did you miss the deep dive on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.
Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.
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