Develop Your Leaders

Tuesday, April 1 2008

Development is a critical element for any organization that plans to maintain a competitive advantage, continue to generate results, and sustain a stable, highly motivated and effective workforce which is why you must develop your leaders.

Defined as growth or evolution, development has been a constant feature of human history. People developed new skills and improved their ways of doing things. Without development we would all still be living in the Stone Age!

One often overlooked aspect of this is the development of leaders. Many organizations are facing a crisis because they have failed to attend to the important aspect of leadership development. The shortage of qualified leaders can bring succession planning to a standstill.

Assess Your People

The first step is to undertake an assessment to confirm that you have the right people lined up for future leadership roles. This does not mean that they have all the right skills today, but rather that you believe they can develop your leaders to help them acquire those skills over time.

Identify Goals & Action Steps

Next, identify just one or two areas that will yield the biggest returns. This process should be one of mutual agreement between the individual and their manager. Written goals should be created once the development areas have been determined. Actually writing out the goal is essential to the process. This article, written by Dr. Gail Matthews, empirically proves the positive value of writing goals.

Ensure Accountability & Provide Feedback

This requires tracking the written goals and evaluating results. One important aspect of tracking, particularly when it requires a behaviour change, is the provision of specific, targeted feedback. Feedback is a statement of what is, and its sole purpose should be to assist the person in assessing how well they are doing on a specific goal or behaviour. Written goals work best when they are communicated to others.

Communicate feedback in a positive tone, and clearly state what was done well or what areas still need enhancing. General comments such as, “that was a good presentation” or “I think your presentation was weak” will not help the individual to understand specifically what needs to change or how they can leverage what they have done well. Instead, “You clearly hit all the key points and described them in a way that everyone understood the value,” clarifies one of the important strengths of the presentation. Focused and specific feedback provides the developing leaders with a concrete opportunity to learn.

Areas for Enhancement

Pointing out areas for enhancement is much more difficult than highlighting the positives and requires a different set of skills. For example, are we effectively communicating with them when coaching them to consider the consistency of their own communication? It might be appropriate to ask how the speaker assessed whether the audience understood their message, especially as several people’s body language was sending strong messages that they didn’t get it. Two important points about giving feedback are:

  1. Ensure the purpose is clearly stated
  2. Close the loop when communicating feedback to make sure the individual fully understands your point

Positive, targeted, specific feedback is key to helping everyone on your team develop. It requires diligence to practice giving positive, real-time feedback until it becomes automatic. People want and need to know that you care about them and feedback fills that need. It is a key element that takes people from good to great.

The steps outlined here – confirming your potential leaders, identifying goals and action steps, and providing timely, constructive feedback are essential for developing future leaders. Help people develop today and you set them up for success.

Caring is free, but watch it boost your bottom line!

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