Looking to identify future leaders within your ranks? If you do it right, it could also boost morale, creativity, and spark the transfer of good ideas. What kind of leadership program is right for your business? Experts say internal development is often something that gets axed as businesses look for ways to save money. But overlooking the value of cultivating your own in-house talent can be a fatal mistake. Leadership programs help ease the chain of succession, make employees feel more connected to the business, and can transfer good ideas from one section of your company to the whole organization.
Identifying the employees best suited for leadership can be tricky, and theories vary on how to best identify those candidates within your organization. The Walt Disney Co., for example, focuses its development programs largely on promoting from within, and more than 60 percent of its management comes from its existing staff. The company also keeps an informal, hands-off approach to its succession program by setting goals and then standing back.
Other companies simply put their entire staff into development programs with hopes of making everyone more effective. But identifying the employees who bring the most energy, ambition and success into your company is a smart way to focus development dollars, says Tommy Daniel, senior vice president of PDI Ninth House, a global leadership development and consulting firm. While leadership training can potentially benefit every employee, some positions will only result in a small revenue bump for the whole organization, while other positions can garner a huge return, he says.
At the same time, you should be conscious that the best employees don't always make the best managers, says Mark Murphy, chairman and CEO of Leadership IQ, a training firm based in Washington, D.C. "The skill sets are about 180 degrees away from each other," he says.
Murphy's company sometimes recommends a "manager-for-a-day" program, where a promising employee can shadow or work alongside a manager to get a real sense of what their job entails. "It doesn't take a six-month curriculum necessarily," Murphy says. "Sometimes it's as simple as identifying your best people, giving them the job, and seeing how they perform."
If it doesn't work out, well, you saved yourself a promotion; if it does, you've got someone who is able to ease a bit more quickly into a new role.
Leadership instructors say an easy way to lose promising employees is to think that because you have no positions available, you have no need for staff development. "Your future leaders want to be developed whether you have a space for them or not," Murphy says. "If you don't develop them they're going to go somewhere else to get developed."
Remember when a manager was someone who worked in an office with 20 employees sitting outside the door? In today's world of a global workforce, virtual offices, and digital conferencing, managers may have employees they don't see for months at a time. How can you still develop leaders for a decentralized workforce?
Experts say this challenge means you have to train leaders to be more purposeful in establishing personal relationships with staff.
"Developing relationships with people is sort of the first step in developing enough trust with someone so they will willingly invest in your leadership," says Daniel of PDI Ninth House. That means being able to pick up the phone every now and then instead of just relying on what some experts call a "concurrent monologue" of email.
"There's nothing harder than developing a relationship with someone when you're only communicating via shorthand and email," Daniel says.
Part of the challenge of leading in a digital world is the need to be more clear and direct in your conversations with employees. Communications have to be clearer, more helpful, more on target. Leadership programs in a decentralized workspace should also focus on the value of sharing information and transparency via social media and virtual office sharing systems, Murphy adds.
To learn more about creating a leadership development program, check out The Center for Creative Leadership, which offers a variety of leadership programs along with other materials to facilitate in-house staff development. In addition, TrainingIndustry.com ranks the best leadership programs in the country.
Source: "How to Create a Leadership Development Program," Inc.