Many companies today rely on the job market and recruiters to provide the talent they need, but as many HR professionals would agree, this is not always the ideal approach.
When new leaders are brought in from the outside, they often tote organizational "baggage." This is particularly true of the leaders who come from major corporations because these companies "imprint" core values on their people, helping them adapt to and build the corporate environment. When stressed, people often "snap back" to their default values, even when they have been imprinted by their company leadership development process. The problem arises when the environment changes and leaders need to adjust their thinking, their values, and their culture to be successful in their new company.
After many years in the corporate environment, and having personally adapted to various corporate cultures, we find that leaders can improve their indigenous leadership teams by applying a longer-term, more proactive development strategy. This longer-term strategy preserves and promotes the corporate values while doing a better job of quickly raising the next generation of leaders to proficiency. The process even allows leaders to be tracked for key positions earlier in their careers and ahead of the needs, which is a key strategic shift for many companies. Leaders who are homegrown are better able to lead and sustain the company's core values and functions. A strategy encompassing "growth from within" includes the following key components:
- Applying the power of mentoring and coaching (to develop the leader and the employees)
- Implementing developmental career pathing (long-term perspective on planning)
- Actively identifying and instilling organizational values (to build organizational stability)
- Crafting a reward strategy that goes beyond pay
Most leaders make little time for the process of mentoring. The reality is that most employees at all levels desire this kind of guidance, and a deeper understanding of the talent is needed for placing people in increasingly demanding positions. As leaders master mentoring, they not only develop the people beneath them, but they themselves become better and more aware leaders.
In concert with a mentoring approach is the idea of long-term career development, which formally matches a career path goal to developmental assignments. If one of the organization's primary goals is to maintain a pool of talented leaders, then investment in this area bears great dividends. The organization relies less on outside hiring and has a better understanding of the real capabilities of its own people.
Every enterprise has a set of values, whether implicit or explicit. These values often drive the selection criteria for promotion. In the past, we believed that keeping those values hidden allowed us to be selective in how we shared them. Now, we need everyone in the company to own them at some level. Leaders must learn to teach and train the people in the organization on the right values for promotion. We must understand, measure, and develop those values in the leaders as we promote them for the organization to remain sustainable.
The final area is that of reward systems and strategies. If we can think more about what drives people's engagement in their jobs as individuals, then we can take people to new levels of commitment and passion for their work. There is no getting around the "personal touch" here, and leaders must be willing to genuinely extend their thanks to the leaders in their company. Leaders often must be taught how to do this, but rewards can refresh the energy of the workforce in ways that money cannot.
Ultimately, the greatest shift we can make in our thinking is that developing leaders requires a "hands-on" approach. This proactive approach and the competencies that enable it can be taught at each stage of the "growth-from-within" strategy.
Stephen Peele is a founding member of ArchPoint Consulting and has more than 26 years of experience in high technology, information technology, and manufacturing products and services with GE, SmartSignal Corporation (a technology start-up), and independent consulting. His prior leadership positions include vice president, business development at Preceptus; general manager of aviation at SmartSignal; e-business leader for GE Capital; and sales director and director of marketing and new business development for GE Engine Services. He earned an MBA from the University of Cincinnati, a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is certified in Six Sigma Quality and Process Improvement Training.