How Well Do You Grow Future Leaders?
When Grooming New Leaders: What Behavior to Observe?
As much as you may want to promote people you view as deserving into positions of management on your team, you need to be clear with yourself, and with the team, about how you measure “deserving.” You have to find some way to assess both a person’s ability, and desire, to step into a leadership role:
- Some stellar workers need more development to make good supervisors.
- A great candidate may prefer to remain in his or her current role, at least for now.
To make great promotional choices, create an ongoing process through which you can assess the characteristics you seek in those you want to promote. Measure them on a number of factors:
Motivation – You may want a team of self-directed managers who are driven to succeed, so if certain employees express a desire to embrace new challenges—such as managing people—that’s a positive sign. However, those most overtly ambitious are not always the best candidates. You need to test their other leadership abilities, too. Give them opportunities with special assignments to demonstrate their potential for engaging and motivating others in advance of possible promotion. And reach out to the less demonstrably ambitious, too. Otherwise you will miss a lot of leadership potential.
Conflict management – Pay attention to how well people demonstrate leadership in the face of conflict. The best managers grapple with conflicts directly, staying in control of how they and their team respond to events. Look to see if they understand that the best resolutions focus on doing what’s best for the long-term success of the team, not just solving the immediate problem or keeping a veneer of civility intact. Watch also to see if subjective preferences for particular people guide their responses. Act to correct such behavior!
Independence –You want leaders who are willing to speak up to help the organization buck conventional wisdom and challenge “the way things are always done around here.” A passive “yes sir” person who always defers to their superiors will need more work and help breaking out of that follower mindset before taking on a leadership role.
Ability – Managers need to master a toolbox full of skills such as time management, interpersonal communication and delegation. These skills can be taught, however, so assess potential with that in mind. Promote those who show they have the desire and ability to adopt these positive leadership behaviors and mindsets.
Respect – Managers must earn their teams’ respect, and respect team members in return. Do other workers look up to this person? How well do they wield the soft skills of relationship building? A lack of evident interpersonal skills may signal a developmental issue that needs addressing with training, coaching and/or mentoring before the person can be promoted.
As a leader, one of your key roles is developing the next generation of leaders. Have a plan and a consistent (but flexible!) process in place to measure the potential of future candidates for promotion, and spot potential that can be further developed with the right mix of extra assignments, coaching, training and mentoring.