Thinking Five Moves Ahead

Thinking Five Moves Ahead

Smart business leaders know they’re playing a game much more like chess than checkers. They have to think multiple moves ahead about the challenges that will one day come their way. The luckiest companies will outlast their leadership, making the continual development of the next generation of leaders an important contingency and priority.

This is a deeper subject than simply finding a suitable replacement for a leader that transitions out of your company. It’s about developing that next generation much earlier, preparing them to take the reins and molding their skills to serve the needs of your company over the long term.

How to Develop Your Leaders

Eventually, some of your most important people will leave your company, sometimes unexpectedly. The first step in forming your leadership development plans is to define the roles and characteristics held by your current leadership team. Determining what types of skills and attributes will be missed the most will help you outline your leadership development strategies and serve as a guide moving forward.

How do we choose a leader to develop?

James L. Jorgensen

Experts agree that you shouldn’t focus solely on your upper echelon employees, but rather take a complete look at your whole organization when considering candidates. Choose more than one potential leader to develop and avoid tunnel vision on any one person, in case they too should leave your company unexpectedly.

“We hire our people with the expectation that they will spend their entire professional career with us. As young leaders grow and develop their individual skills, they can also be learning about the dynamics of the industry and what it takes for your business to be successful. Both within and outside the company, we must give them the opportunities of becoming the leaders they are capable of being,” said James L. Jorgensen, Partner, Hoeppner Wagner & Evans LLP.

Development is different than training.

Brian Hittinger

Leadership development is different than training. You’re not providing instruction, but rather providing challenges that have the potential to lead to personal growth. Place your candidate in charge of a new project or endeavor, allow them to fill leadership roles during temporary leader absences, give them the chance to step up, and allow them to work with different teams.

“Future business leaders must be taught how to understand client/customer concerns and how to manage the financial matters of running the business as they grow throughout their careers. Successful client management skills and the development of fellow peer relationships will take time to establish and will likely require ongoing instruction and mentoring,” said Brian Hittinger, a partner with Krieg DeVault LLP.

Review and retain.

Professional development inherently leads to overall employee retention, but in this case it’s obviously all the more important because of the goal of creating a future leader. Therefore, the person learning how to be a leader should be actively engaged in their own assessment processes and a rewards system should be established to encourage them to continue achieving your firm’s leadership goals. Types of rewards can range from things like increased compensation, extra vacation time, or other incentives that motivate the individual to continue progressing through their benchmarks.

Additional Recommendations from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM):

  • Any experience can be made more developmental by adding greater levels of assessment, challenge, and support.
  • Recognize and enhance an individual’s aspects of ability and motivation to maximize the effectiveness of leadership development.
  • Choose those developmental practices that best fit with the firm’s organizational context rather than simply adopting what has been successful elsewhere.
  • Take advantage of open enrollment programs and development programs offered through corporate universities that may be more sensible for meeting leadership development needs than developing an in-house program.

Avoid the “What Ifs”

The time to start putting together your leadership development plans is, basically, yesterday. Unforeseen events can happen any time and could take away some of your firm’s most important people. Keep your company prepared and your clients protected by shaping tomorrow’s leaders today.

Category Features, Rule of Law