Eighty-four percent of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next five years, according to a State of Leadership Development report by Brandon Hall. And a nearly equal number (83%) say that it’s important to develop leaders at all levels.
Yet here’s the thing. Only 5% have actually implemented leadership development at all levels. In fact, the biggest chunk of money spent on leadership development goes toward senior leaders and executives, instead of to those who need it most – first time, frontline leaders. All too often these new leaders are put in a “sink or swim” situation, thrown into the deep end of leading a team and left to figure out for themselves how to stay afloat.
This is both unfair to the new leader and detrimental to the organization.
Most people are promoted into their first leadership role as a result of their high performance as an individual contributor and/or because of their technical skills. Yet what helped them succeed as an individual will not necessarily contribute to their success as a people leader – where the challenges and responsibilities require a different set of skills. Without some sort of leadership development early on in their transition from individual performer to leader, new leaders may simply mimic the behaviors of a leader they’ve had in the past, and not necessarily a good one. And those behaviors, once ingrained, are difficult to change.
A survey of HR leaders and practitioners conducted by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that “the sink or swim mindset toward new managers is ubiquitous.” In that survey, respondents were asked to rank the must-have skills for frontline managers in order of importance. Technical expertise was ranked 7th, preceded by:
Ethics and integrity
Drives for results/motivation to succeed
Develops effective teams
Maintains relationships with internal stakeholders
While some of these skills might be inherent in a new leader, being able to apply them effectively while adapting to leading people requires coaching and support. People leaders need to learn how to identify individual strengths, motivators, skill gaps, personalities and how individuals work together as a team. They need to be accountable not just for their work but for the work of others. And they need support with the challenge that many internally promoted leaders face – transitioning from peer to leader.
New leader training needs to be a key component of every organization’s learning and development plan. And it should not be just a one-day event around policies, performance reviews and disciplinary actions. It needs to be structured in a way that gives participants time to apply their learning, receive feedback, and get the ongoing support necessary (mentoring, coaching) to grow into the next line of senior leaders and executives.
Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.
One last startling factoid for you from that Brandon Hall Report: More money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate training, yet 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future.
Doesn’t it make sense to take the time to effectively develop leaders from the very beginning?
Till next time,
Kudos to the companies that promote from within. Leveraging internal talent is a great way to keep employees engaged and to prevent a vast and valuable source of company knowledge from walking out the door.
Yet all too often employees are promoted internally to leadership roles without the benefit of the leadership training to help them succeed. This is critical. Especially for those employees who transition from coworker to team leader. Not only do they have to learn their new responsibilities as a people leader, they may have to deal with resentment from their former teammates who didn’t get the job.
Sound familiar? If this is something you’re experiencing, here are some tips.
Start by building trust. You may be following in the footsteps of someone everyone loved, in which case the expectation will be that things remain the same. Or you may be following someone who wasn’t popular (or got fired) and the expectation will be that things will change immediately. Give yourself some time to assess the team and get established in your new role before making any changes (or not!)
Meet one-on-one with each direct report. Spend the majority of your time listening – to their updates, their concerns, their ideas. Ask about specific areas where they need your support. Summarize what they’ve said so they know you were really listening. Keep it positive. Express a particular contribution that that individual makes to the team. Share how you want to lead. Ask about their career aspirations. Help them see you in a new light – as a leader, coach, visionary.
Hold an initial team meeting. Reintroduce yourself in your new role. Share your values, how you like to operate, and the best way to communicate with you. Convey confidence. Address ideas that came up in the one-on-one meetings (again, demonstrating that you were really listening). Enlist the team’s support in collaboratively creating guiding principles for how you will work together effectively.
Address any resentment – swiftly and privately. If you sense resentment from a team member, meet with them privately to discuss the issue. Acknowledge their feelings, and…be clear that you are counting on them to continue to be a contributor to the team effort. Mutually define the best way to work together effectively going forward.
Be prepared not to be liked by everyone. Your relationships have shifted. You are now in a position of writing a review for someone who may be a personal friend. Their lax attitude toward work may not have mattered when you were “buddies,” but it will definitely matter when you are responsible for the team. Just sayin’.
Be a leader more than a manager. It’s tempting to go overboard in “managing” at the beginning to differentiate yourself from the team. Don’t. You have the advantage of, having worked with them, knowing their strengths. Empower them to use those strengths. Let them know you are there to help when they need it. Coach them. Make sure every team member feels valued, connected, challenged and recognized.
And most of all, communicate, communicate, communicate!
Till next time,
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” - Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch
In my last blog, I talked about the importance of your continuing to grow and develop as a leader. Now let’s talk about the importance of growing and developing your people. Both are essential if you want to prepare your organization to succeed today and into the future.
Employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. Providing them with opportunities to build on their strengths, learn new skills and prepare for the future needs of the company demonstrates in a very real way that they are integral to the organization and its success. And when employees feel that kind of connection they will be more engaged and loyal.
Employee development can happen in many different forms: on-the-job training, personal development, cross-functional projects, coach and/or mentor, special projects, stretch assignments, training courses, reading and personal study, online courses, peer coaching, job shadowing, etc. The important thing is that it is available and encouraged.
Too often development opportunities are limited to “fixing” an employee’s weaknesses rather than leveraging and developing their strengths. Yet, according to Gallup, organizations that focus on employee strengths have higher engagement, less turnover and a better bottom line.
Create development plans that take into consideration organization goals and the skills and behaviors employees will need to contribute to achieving those goals. It’s also essential that individual employee career goals and personal interests be taken into account in development plans. All too often employees have skills and talents that are under-utilized. In fact, 74% of employees feel that they are not reaching their full potential. (The Learning Wave)
Also consider the skills and behaviors employees will need in the future to succeed (yes, even if it’s not in your organization). According to a report from the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills in 2020 will be:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Creating, implementing and supporting development plans for your employees will not only help keep them loyal and engaged, it will ensure that your organization is ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
"The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay." - Henry Ford
Till next time,
You’re in a job you like, you can do it almost on autopilot, and your performance reviews are stellar. No need to update your skills, right? Wrong!
Or…you’re in a job you hate, but, “it’s a job” and you are so overworked or busy trying to keep that job that you have no time to even THINK about what’s next, let alone PREPARE for it. There’s just no way, right? Wrong!
Whether you like your job or hate it, keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date and preparing for what’s next is a must. Here’s a “get real” process to help you get started.
Conduct an inventory. Look at your last performance review. Make a list of both strengths and development areas. Then think about what you want to do next. If you are currently working and want to progress on your career path, what skills and knowledge will you need to get to the next level? Add these to your list. If you are looking for a new opportunity, what are the requirements of your target position? Which of those requirements are you lacking? Add these to your list.
Create a personal development plan. Select one or two areas from your inventory that you will focus on in the next three months. Do some research to find resources to help you develop in those areas. Remember, learning doesn’t only occur in the classroom. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Don’t forget to include target dates on your plan!
Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your refrigerator, your desktop. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. You can work on them in your next plan. Take a melting pot approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc., on your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.
Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you have gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”
Review, revisit, and revise the plan. Spend some time reviewing your plan and how it worked. Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional/alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and development goals.
Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge is an investment that will keep your market value on an upward trend. And…you never know when that golden opportunity will come along. Be prepared!
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” - Chinese proverb
Till next time,
I heard a rather startling statistic the other day – since 2010 traffic on Bay Area freeways has increased by 80%. The bad news is that it’s taking longer to get where you’re going. The good news is that people are working – the job market is healthy again. This means that employers can no longer be complacent when it comes to keeping their people.
Let’s talk about how you can get them to stay. Employees need to feel valued, connected, challenged and recognized. They want to use their strengths – every day - and know that they’re contributing to the success of the organization. They also want to have time to spend with their families and/or to pursue interests outside of work. And they want to be fairly compensated for the work they do. It’s not rocket science.
Help your employees feel valued by communicating how their goals align with team and organizational goals. Provide them with opportunities to build on their strengths, learn new skills and prepare for the future needs of the company. Development can happen in many different forms: on-the-job training, personal development, cross-functional projects, coach and/or mentor, special projects, stretch assignments, training courses, reading and personal study, online courses, peer coaching, job shadowing… The important thing is that it is available and encouraged.
Help them feel connected by communicating with them regularly about what’s going on in the company. Provide opportunities for employees to connect and build relationships with one another, not through forced team events, but more naturally through spaces to gather and cross-functional team projects.
Do you have career roadmaps and succession plans in place? If not, what are you waiting for? Help your employees feel challenged by communicating the next level in their career path and what they need to do to get there. Give them temporary assignments that will stretch their skills and comfort level.
Recognize their efforts by saying “thank you” early and often. Don’t wait until review time to tell them what a good job they’re doing. And be specific – what was the situation, what did they do, and what was the impact. Applaud the behavior you want to see repeated and emulated.
Organizations need to acknowledge that their people are the lifeblood of the business. Don’t take your employees for granted. As the economy continues to improve and there are options for them elsewhere, you want to keep those employees in your organization. Find creative ways to develop and challenge them. Let them know they are valued, and that they are a critical component to the business moving forward. Build succession plans to ensure that your bench strength is available and ready to grow the business.
“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job.” – Ken Blanchard
Till next time,
A few years back, when the first baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) began to reach retirement age, there was much written about the impending brain drain as boomers left the workforce. How would we transfer their knowledge? Who would step up to be leaders? Companies were advised to quickly put succession plans in place. And then…the economy tanked and boomers stayed in place and the crisis seemed averted. Now, however, another wave of boomers has hit the mark and concern is bubbling up again.
A cover story last month in the San Francisco Business Times entitled, “From Boomers to Bust?” suggested that “the pace of retirements among baby boomers is about to explode, and it has big consequences for the Bay Area Economy and its workforce.” The impact will be felt more in the Bay Area, the article says, because in addition to the population being older in the region than the rest of California, “the area is in the process of adding more than 1 million jobs by 2040, with talent shortages already a factor across a range of industries.”
Nationwide, an estimated 10,000 boomers a day celebrate their 65th birthday. And according to Gallup, by 2029, 20% of the population will be over 65. Clearly, companies have some serious workforce planning to do, especially those with an older employee base.
That being said, if we look at this situation through the lens of possibilities, I see some real opportunities for both boomers and those who would follow in their footsteps.
While many boomers are anxious to leave the pace and politics of corporate life, not all of them dream of replacing that with more leisurely pursuits. In fact, quite a few plan to keep working in some capacity – either for financial reasons or for a sense of purpose. If this applies to you, then get busy preparing to capture the possibilities. This might be any of the following or none of them (leisure on!). You’re at a place where it’s entirely up to you. Here are some possibilities:
- Work with your current employer to reduce hours or create a more flexible schedule
- Become a mentor to help prepare the next line of leaders
- Turn your hobby into a side business (e.g., become a small space gardener)
- Leverage the skills you’ve built over the years and consult
- Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you
For those who are just starting out or are several years into their career, the exodus of baby boomers can open doors (and windows!) of opportunity, especially in leadership. The key is to have a growth mindset (always be learning) and to leverage some tips from the Year of Possibilities framework:
Pay attention to what’s around you. Where are the opportunities? What do you need to do to get there? Take a personal skill /behavior inventory. Get feedback from others. Use it!
Listen…really listen. Think about a team or department leader you admire. Set up an informational interview to gain knowledge and insight on how to lead successfully in the organization. Listen and take notes. Create an action plan. Implement it.
Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.
And whether you’re a boomer or movin’ on up, don’t stop believin’!
Till next time,