How To Identify And Nurture Future Leaders

In Order To Be The Best Steward Of The Company That You Can Be, You Must Take Your Leadership Role Of Nurturing Tomorrow’s Leaders Very Seriously.

By Steve Schumacher

One of the most gratifying activities I have ever been involved in was setting up a process to identify and develop high-potential employees within a company. It took a year to get the process where we wanted it to be.

At the end of that year, we had identified the potential for leadership of every employee in the company. In addition, we had a process of moving those people into developmental positions along with continual coaching and mentoring by higher level leaders.

Once the process was up and running, he thing I heard over and over again from the high-potential employees was how nice it was to be identified openly and given the visibility to make a difference. Historically, the high performers were just given more workload and their managers were fearful of losing them and their productivity.

In order to be the best steward of the company that you can be, you must take your leadership role of nurturing tomorrow’s leaders very seriously. If you do not identify them and develop their talents, they are very likely to leave and become a resource to another company. Following are some things you can do to identify and develop your future leaders.

Identify future leader behaviors. The best way to do this is to develop a team with the responsibility to identify what behaviors you are looking for in the leaders of tomorrow. In my experience, the one common thread is high performance.

After that, it can be a number of things – taking on more responsibility, good communication skills, a go-getter attitude, working well with others, and modeling company values. Another behavior that is fairly consistent across high potential employees is the ability to accept criticism well and act on it.

Identify developmental positions. Take a look at your organization and each of the positions within it. Characterize each job by what kind of skills are developed in each – technical skills, big picture skills and people skills.

All three are vital for future leaders, and exposure to various jobs every couple years will enhance those skills.

Gap analysis. Once you have identified the behaviors you are seeking in your future leaders, it is time to look at each employees and do an honest evaluation of where they are with those skills.

Once you have done that, a gap will emerge of where those employees are and where they need to be.

Development plan. This is the crucial action-oriented portion of the pro-cess. I have seen too many companies take the first three steps, then not take action.
A training and development plan must be put together for each future leader that includes necessary training, a career path, mentoring and coaching. I believe it is best, at this point, to involve the employees in the development planning process. Do not keep it in the dark. By involving them, you will gain their buy-in and acceptance of the process.

Set stretch goals. Most future leaders thrive on challenges. A lot of companies set what they call stretch goals at annual review time. For your future leaders, the goals must truly be a stretch that is difficult yet achievable. High performers thrive on this sort of thing.

Do not hesitate to push your future leaders to greater heights.

Consistent monitoring. The team that is responsible for developing this process should be the ones to constantly monitor the progress of development for future leaders. They should report to the senior team on a regular basis how things are going.

They need to make sure that the high potentials are getting the development, coaching and mentoring that they need to truly develop. If the managers throughout the company are not doing this, or are not capable of doing this, something must be changed.

It is so easy in our jet-speed pace of today to only think about last week, this week, and next week. When it comes to developing the leaders of tomorrow, your company and you must take responsibility for making that happen.

High achievers need, and demand, development or they will leave. It is as simple as that. If you, as a leader, take your leadership responsibilities seriously, you understand that and work toward not only keeping those employees, but ensuring the future of the company at the same time.