In today’s business world, organizations are in an ongoing war for talent. As a result, companies that are skilled at finding and developing leaders are in a good position to get ahead. To address this issue, Global Knowledge, an award-winning global organization known for its strategic solutions and strong focus on people development, created the Business Performance Framework. The framework helps identify current or potential employee gaps in the context of an organization’s environment and strategy.
In Accelerating Leadership Development, Jocelyn Bérard, vice president at Global Knowledge, outlines various processes that businesses can use to identify talent gaps, determine leadership requirements, select and develop promising talent, and promote leaders’ growth.
PART I: LEADERSHIP AND SUCCESSION
As organizations embark on the journey to develop leaders, the first step is creating a leadership success profile. This clearly defines what it takes to be an effective leader within an organization. A leadership success profile can be used to evaluate existing leaders, as well as individuals who have shown high potential for becoming leaders in the future.
Through research and its work with clients, Global Knowledge has identified four key components for a leadership success profile:
1. Competencies. These are defined as a set of desired behaviors in a leader. Competencies explain what an individual can do.
2. Knowledge. Knowledge may be related to the organization, products, business functions, or regulations. Knowledge explains what a leader knows.
3. Experience. This part of the profile clearly describes the situations the leader has dealt with. Experience explains what the leader has done.
4. Personal traits and motivation. The personality traits that a leader possesses help determine the results the person will be able to attain. Some traits are enablers, while others are derailers. Personality traits explain who a leader is.
For any leadership position, it is important to take a holistic view of the success profile. However, organizations also must not overlook integrity and ethics. Leaders without those qualities are unlikely to succeed.
IDENTIFYING LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL
Succession planning is a critical task for leaders. This requires looking at future potential, rather than current leadership ability. No single attribute makes a great leader, so it is necessary to evaluate candidates against a set of factors that support leadership competence. Bérard suggests that six factors predict the success of future leaders:
1. Cognitive complexity and capacity. Individuals with strong intellectual abilities thrive in chaotic and fast-changing environments.
2. Drive and achievement orientation. People who are likely to be good leaders show personal initiative, a passion for results, and a desire to change the status quo.
3. Learning orientation. Individuals with a learning orientation want to improve themselves and others.
4. Personal and business ethics. Leaders who are seen as fair, honest, and trustworthy are likely to achieve positive and lasting results in organizations.
5. Motivation to lead. People who do not shy away from leadership are comfortable defending their ideas and facing adversity.
6. Social and emotional complexity and capacity. Individuals with emotional intelligence are able to process emotionally charged information and use it to guide their actions.
One way to identify high potential leaders is through a Nine Box Grid which rates individuals based on performance (low, medium, and high) and potential (low, medium, and high). However, selecting high potential employees is just the start. Once these individuals have been identified, they must then be developed. Many organizations debate whether or not to tell people that they are in the “high potential leader” pool. The trend in progressive organizations is toward greater transparency, both for people who are considered high potential and those who are not.
DIAGNOSING DEVELOPMENT NEEDS
After organizations identify their high potential leaders, they must determine what skills they need to develop in order to lead more effectively. To assist with this work, Global Knowledge recommends using three assessment tools:
1. Multi-Rater Survey. This is a 360-degree assessment that objectively identifies specific competency development needs.
2. Knowledge and Experience Inventory. Candidates and their immediate supervisors complete this survey that focuses on the candidates’ expertise and accomplishments.
3. The Hogan Personality Assessment Tools. The Hogan Potential Inventory is a measure of normal personality that can predict job performance and the Hogan Develop Survey identifies personality-based performance risks.
Assessment tools like these serve two purposes — they increase candidates’ self-awareness and they help organizations identify the right development solutions for high-potential leaders.
PRESCRIBING DEVELOPMENT SOLUTIONS
As organizations create development plans for their up-and-coming leaders, it can be helpful to focus on the 70-20-10 rule. This rule suggests that 70 percent of what people learn comes from daily experiences; 20 percent comes from peers, superiors, or other colleagues; and only 10 percent comes from formal training. Developing true expertise requires intensive practice and it must be embedded in the context of real work. Researchers have called this “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice has six elements:
1. It must be designed to improve performance. Opportunities for practice must have a goal and evaluation criteria.
2. It must be based on authentic tasks. The practice must use real work and be performed in context.
3. The practice must be challenging. Tasks should be slightly outside the learner’s comfort zone, but not so far outside that they generate anxiety.
4. Immediate feedback must be conveyed. Accurate, diagnostic feedback should be continuously generated.
5. Time for reflection and adjustment must be allowed. These components are essential to deliberate practice.
6. Mastery takes many hours. Some experts suggest that it can take 10,000 hours to master a new skill. However, the less complex the work, the less time required to develop expertise.
Learning on the job can take a variety of forms. People can be mentored by others or they can learn through observation. Another option is job rotations. The author suggests that informal learning can be positively influenced through communities of practice, action learning, and informal learning assets. Effective communities of practice focus on knowledge creation and exchange, rather than on technology. Action learning has small teams work together on real workplace problems. Informal learning assets are digital or paper-based tools that result from organizational knowledge or formal training programs.
ENSURING AND REVIEWING DEVELOPMENT
To ensure that leadership development happens, organizations must put monitoring and review measures in place. According to Bérard, the single most important measure of success is when the organization has a larger number of leaders who are ready for promotion to higher levels. When identifying and developing high-potential leaders, organizations are advised to “do more with less.” Rather than making the leadership pool too large, it is better to make the pool the right size to produce the required number of future leaders in a given period and devote more resources to their development. The right number of people for the pool will be dependent on the demographics of the organization.
To promote development, it is a good idea to create “learning tension” for high-potential leaders. This is a positive pressure in the form of the expectation of success. One way to create this tension is to hold regular meetings at a senior level to review the progress of high potential leaders’ development plans.
Global Knowledge has developed five steps that help ensure that development occurs and promote review of development activities:
1. Establish accountability for the execution of development plans. Organizations should always push accountability for a high-potential’s development plan one level or more above the individual’s manager.
2. Develop and implement follow up processes. These should be completed in the context of decisions that were documented in the planning phase.
3. Define and implement the communication plan. The goal is to keep participants aware of their responsibilities and results being achieved.
4. Develop a leadership dashboard and succession activities using lead and lag measures. Lead measures are indicators of progress, while lag measures reflect the results achieved versus the initial targets.
5. Plan and execute reviews of high potentials’ development and incorporate lessons learned. Succession management committees must monitor candidates’ progress and assessment results. This information will inform when individuals are ready for promotion.
PART II: LEADERSHIP IN ACTION
An important skill for leaders today is coaching. Effective coaching is a powerful conversation that is characterized in the following way: it is empowering, creative, future-oriented, and focused on improvement. Coaching is not teaching, a pep talk, delegation, a performance review, counseling, or progressive discipline.
The coaching model used by Global Knowledge has four steps:
1. Initiate. A solid coaching relationship requires a foundation of trust and respect. A coach needs to find the right time to approach the other person and gain a commitment to proceed.
2. Clarify. Listening is a key skill for coaches. To gather the necessary information, coaches may use three types of questions: open-ended, clarifying, and confirming.
3. Explore. There are three actions in this step: reposition, identify alternatives, and select alternatives. Repositioning gets people past their built-in limits. It is important for coaches and those being coached to jointly select a path forward.
4. Act. In this phase, the coaching plan is laid out and next steps are established to keep people accountable.
MOTIVATING FOR FULL ENGAGEMENT
Research has found that highly motivated employees are the most engaged and productive people in organizations. As a result, leaders need to find actions that will motivate others to fully engage in their work and achieve results. Global Knowledge focuses on four key drivers of motivation:
1. Autonomy. Individuals naturally seek autonomy in the workplace. They want to set their own direction and have some say in what they do and how they do it.
2. Mastery. This relates to a person’s inner drive to continually get better at something that matters to him or her. As people acquire mastery, they try to align the level and type of work they do with their abilities and interests.
3. Purpose. Most employees want their work to make a difference.
4. Self-expression. Employees increasingly want to feel they can be themselves at work.
Beyond these four factors, other potential drivers of motivation are the organization, the employee, the manager, colleagues, and clients. In addition to providing recognition, great leaders give feedback to employees.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION
Communication is essential for leaders. It demonstrates one’s positive traits, creates buy-in, builds employee engagement, and reflects one’s honesty and authenticity. Research has found that only 10 percent of communication is verbal. Half is non-verbal and 40 percent is paraverbal. As a result, leaders need to recognize that how they convey a message is as important as what they convey in the message.
Global Knowledge recommends using the Know-Understand-Believe-Act or KUBA model to make communication more effective and influential.
*Know. Leaders must convey the essence of their message as clearly and specifically as possible. The key question to answer is, “What are the facts?”
*Understand. The audience must understand the details. People want a solid context and will ask questions to confirm their understanding. The key questions to answer are, “Why do we need to do this? Why have we decided that?”
*Believe. The audience must believe in the value of what a leader asks them to do and believe that they can accomplish it. This is the buy-in phase. The key question to answer is, “What are the benefits for the people receiving the message or for other stakeholders?”
*Act. In many circumstances, a leader’s communication will lead to an action. People will be committed to act only if they know, understand, and believe the message.
Effective communicators clearly understand what motivates and inspires others. Storytelling can be a powerful way to illustrate and convey ideas. Powerful stories have four characteristics:
1. Purpose. The speaker focuses on the essentials and knows why they are telling the story.
2. People. The story talks about real characters.
3. Plot. The story has a beginning, middle, and end.
4. Place. The story is situated in a place that the audience can visualize.
DELEGATING DELIBERATELY AND PROVIDING FEEDBACK
Delegation is an important skill for leaders at every level. The Delegation Model is a helpful way to align a delegation style with the characteristics of individuals and tasks. There are three basic delegation styles:
1. Teaching. This approach is suitable for team members who are new to the task, low in ability, or low in motivation. Teaching requires detailed instructions on how to perform a task.
2. Sharing. This approach works well for team members who are somewhat experienced, but not proficient in the task. It is also useful for people with moderate ability or moderate motivation. Sharing means co-owning responsibility.
3. Transferring. This technique is appropriate for team members who are experienced, proficient, or high in ability. Transferring means turning over most of the task ownership from the leader to the team member.
Strategic delegation provides individuals with knowledge of an aspect of the business that they had not been exposed to previously. With all types of delegation, it is important to remember that leaders do not lose accountability for a task even if it has been delegated.
Feedback is another essential aspect of leadership. Good feedback is timely, specific, consistent, clear, direct, sincere, open, comfortable, and genuine. Through actionable feedback, leaders can help team members build their strengths, improve performance, and feel greater motivation.
To achieve their goals, leaders must influence others. Global Knowledge suggests that leaders must master four skill sets to become an effective and influential leader:
1. Develop awareness. Influential leaders do many of the same things as a good salesperson. They listen attentively, determine needs and wants, and then use that information to influence the other party.
2. Establish credibility. Credibility is the cornerstone of influencing efforts. Credibility is based on reliability, capability, and integrity. It is built through actions
3. Identify key stakeholders. Leaders who work in flat or nontraditional organizational structures determine upfront who they need to influence to achieve their business objectives. If the audience is complicated, an influence map can be helpful.
4. Build collaborative networks. Internal networking is essential for leaders. Being well connected and well respected are key to gaining information and resources.
PART III: LEADERSHIP BEST PRACTICES
To ensure that their teams get results, leaders must align employees with the organization’s broader business plan. One way to accomplish this is to establish a “line of sight” that outlines how each person’s work contributes to the overall business plan. A line of sight engages employees, so they see how their work adds value to the organization overall. Global Knowledge has found that a three step process works well for establishing a line of sight:
1. Make the connection. Leaders must create clarity about the organization’s strategy and align its purpose with individuals’ objectives.
2. Add value. Leaders must explain to employees why their work is critical to the organization.
3. Tell a story. Storytelling brings line of sight to life with a personal touch.
Once the line of sight has been created, leaders may rely on a performance management system to monitor how employees’ work is contributing to the business plan. Conversations about performance should be a regular, informal event. Smart companies will link performance and salary, but they hold focused discussions around each topic separately.
Assuming a new leadership role can be a rough transition. It requires learning new skills and unlearning habits that were helpful as an individual contributor, but are not useful as a leader. Global Knowledge has identified four elements that make the transition to leadership more successful:
1. Shift the mindset. Leaders need to perform through their teams, rather than as individuals.
2. Identify opportunities for development. Most new leaders can benefit from developing leadership skills and acquiring traditional business skills.
3. Allocate time as a people leader. New leaders must continually evaluate which tasks and decisions are priorities, as well as which tasks can be either delegated or eliminated.
4. Earn respect and establish credibility. A good place for new leaders to start is by being good at their former jobs. Respect and credibility can only be earned if people walk the talk and practice what they preach.
Effective onboarding programs establish a plan for a new employee’s early success. The faster new hires begin working productively, the sooner they make positive contributions to the organization. Modern onboarding processes are holistic because they focus on knowledge, values, and motivations, skills and competencies, relationship building, and other key linkages between the organization and employees. Although HR plays a role, so does everyone else in the organization.
Holistic onboarding programs can benefit from the 70-20-10 learning paradigm. Based on this rule, 10 percent of onboarding might be formal courses, 20 percent might involve pairing a new hire with a company “buddy” so the new hire can learn by watching others, and 70 percent might expose the employee to projects to learn about the organization’s culture and products.
Global Knowledge has developed a structured approach to onboarding that has four phases and is usually completed in 90 days.
1. Anticipate. The first phase begins when an employee accepts an offer. It may include a preview of the first few weeks on the job and is intended to reduce anxiety.
2. Align. The second phase begins on the employee’s first day. It involves presenting the organization’s goals and specific expectations to the new employee.
3. Accelerate. The accelerate phase speeds up new employees’ confidence through activities designed to help them develop a network and job skills.
4. Activate. The last phase begins after the employee is fully capable of completing basic tasks associated with the role. The new hire continues to expand his or her internal network in new ways.
CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENT SOLUTIONS
Technology is transforming the way people learn and how organizations can develop employees. Experts divide learning into three modes:
1. Formal learning. This is usually accomplished through a self-contained, scheduled learning event.
2. Informal learning. This is a learning opportunity without conventional structure.
3. Social learning. This is an exchange of ideas or information through friendly interactions online.
Striking the right balance between the three is essential. The right mix depends on the level of experience and knowledge among employees. A particularly effective form of informal learning is communities of practice. These unite people with a shared interest. They deepen their knowledge through communicating with others on an ongoing basis. Although social learning is not a new concept, it has been reborn through technology. No matter how the digital world evolves, social learning is here to stay.