“Promotion means finding new ways of being successful- and walking away from the old ways that defined success. A leader who tries to be the same leader across all levels is not going to be successful at all.”
~ Matt Pease, DDI Vice President ~
Client Jamie Asks: There are many people in my organization that could benefit from increased executive presence. What should I look for in a business leadership training program? What skills can I expect my people to gain from such a program?
Coach Joel Answers: This is an important step. Your executives and those you are grooming for leadership need to have a whole company perspective. To be successful they must move from a tactical day-to-day approach to a more strategic overview. Here are six skill sets you’ll want your business leaders to develop.
- Step away from the day-to-day. There’s a saying: When you’re up to your ankles in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re here to drain the swamp. Executives face many compelling day-to-day problems that can eat up all their time. Help your executives learn how to set aside a specific part of their day to reflect on ways they and their team can contribute to the company’s bottom line.
- Look at the big picture. It’s no longer enough to excel in your area. You need a clear view of how your work contributes to the overall success of the company. Get your program to help your leaders elevate their sights.
- Gain self-confidence. This is a mind game, but it’s based on past performance. People need to know they are doing a good job. A key training program will help your leaders assess their past ideas and work. This builds self-assurance which will give then that executive presence that makes people want to follow them.
- Do the work. Find a program that focuses on teaching skills that give real, measurable results. People need to deliver on the high profile jobs they are given. When they manage every project so their work shines, they demonstrate their abilities to co-workers and supervisors. And it gives your people confidence they have the necessary skills to perform at that high level.
- Recognize and seize opportunities. Part of situational awareness is looking beyond current tasks. What else needs to be done? Is there a gap that someone is not filling? Can you take the initiative? Successful executive training courses help with the mind shift necessary to look beyond the average and take those opportunities.
- Focus on solutions. Far too many people spend lots of time discussing the problems. They may lament the shortcomings or complain about the problem. Good leadership seminars will show people how to find solutions.
Jamie, you are wise to look at training your leaders from within. You already know their work ethic and they know the company culture. But leaders don’t just grow on their own.
They need extra and different skill sets. They need a professional to coach and train them to perform at their optimum level. The abilities that have grown them to this point are not sufficient to get them to the top. Unless you train them in those new ways of thinking and acting, you will not help them acquire that executive presence.
Of course you and I both know it can’t be a façade. It can’t be for looks. That leadership, that executive presence has to be backed by a history of success and by skills and vision.
If you need one or two people to gain these skills, I recommend individual coaching. If you want a group of people to grow, a business leadership course can be brought to your executives and tailored to their challenges and the needs of your company.
For more information on how Joel can help your leaders gain that executive presence, contact him.
Talkback: Have you found programs that were successful in developing your leaders?
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“Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
Client Ron asks: Our company has got to get serious about a planning program for succession. We talk about it all the time, but only in some kind of informal, conversational way. “Oh, Janet would be a great comptroller if we could get her into a couple of training programs.” But there’s nothing in writing and no formal plan with benchmarks and milestones. I’m going to take on this challenge personally. But how do I even get started?
Coach Joel answers: Unfortunately, many companies never even think about a succession planning program until they are faced with some kind of crisis or emergency. Someone becomes ill or gets recruited by a competitor and suddenly there’s a huge hole in the organization chart and no one is available to fill it. You’re smart to shed some daylight on this issue. Here are three action steps I think you should take as soon as possible to tackle succession planning in your organization:
- Create individual development plans
- Start an internship program
- Train high potentials with job rotation
1. Create individual development plans. Virtually every employee in your company should have a written career plan. This plan should include his or her core competencies, career goals, and what training programs are needed in order to get him from where he is now to where he wants to go. Be sure to include a time frame for each development activity. Work with each person one on one, and let them develop their own plan with your guidance, rather than developing the plan yourself and dictating to them what’s to be done. Be sure they know the plan can be modified if situations or goals change.
2. Start an internship program. An internship program is an important component of succession program planning. I’m talking here about a special kind of internship, a formal growth structure for employees on the move, not an unpaid summer job for high school or college students. Let’s say, for example, that Kate, who is currently an IT supervisor, has expressed an interest in learning more about marketing. Kate can begin to spend a small percentage of her time in marketing, doing real work, such as a special project or a real problem solve. Kate should have a mentor who will support and critique her. At the same time she should be given opportunities to interact with senior marketing staff during meetings and trainings. Socializing with marketing staff outside the workplace would also help her feel comfortable and become more visible.
3. Train high potentials with job rotation. Job rotations are designed to give rising stars wide exposure to the big company picture by experiencing all phases of the company’s business. Don’t confuse job rotation with cross training, which usually takes place among employees within a department rather than throughout the company. As an important piece of your succession planning, you’ll want to set this up so that each program participant spends time assuming duties and getting hands-on experience in every department. For example, let’s say you’ve targeted Jeffrey as a potential future CFO. As a final phase in his growth plan, he might spend an entire year devoting 25% or more of his time to projects in HR, marketing, and production. Think of job rotation as an investment in leadership development that will ensure that promising young employees gain the experience they need to understand all aspects of the business.
When you set up this kind of structure, you’re doing two things. First, you’re letting your future leaders know you have confidence in them. You’re giving them an opportunity to chart their own course to a successful future. At the same time, you’re giving them a huge responsibility to rise to the occasion by devoting hard work and commitment to their own futures. Most, if not all, will rise to the occasion and you’ll sleep better at night, knowing that your company has the right people in place who can step up to the plate when the occasion demands it.
How’s your succession plan looking? Contact Joel today for some ideas you can use to whip it into shape.
Talkback: Do you have some succession planning tools that are working for you? Share your successes here.
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“While pay and benefits were important, they weren’t real drivers of retention.”
~ Robert Morgan ~
Dianna has found herself, somewhat unexpectedly, on the hot seat. As HR manager for a large manufacturing and distribution company, she is responsible for so much of the day-to-day operation that she has been ignoring some big picture initiatives. Suddenly, the company’s employee retention strategy, or more correctly its lack of one, has risen to #1 on her CEO’s hot list. Dianna starts researching best practices used in companies similar to hers and then calls her direct reports together for a brainstorming session. As Steven Covey advises in Habit #2 of his classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, most good personal and corporate strategies begin with the end in mind. Diana knows their turnover rate is way too high, so she and her team begin with the goal of reducing turnover by 30% in the next 12 months. The team agrees that their wages and benefits are highly competitive, so they look for other areas that need attention. They focus on developing three key initiatives that can quickly and directly impact their turnover rate.
- Tell the whole truth and nothing but
- Hold managers accountable
- Put out the welcome mat
1. Tell the whole truth and nothing but. A good employee retention strategy starts with recruiting. This philosophy applies whether you are using a search firm, posting on an online job board, or running newspaper ads. Employees most often leave a company in the short term because the job was either oversold or undersold. The new employee needs to fully understand what the job involves and this means his or her expectations should be based in reality. Will he be on the phone six hours a day? Will she be dealing with the public? Does the job involve a certain amount of routine or monotony?Management must clearly communicate what the job responsibilities are before an offer is made.
2. Hold managers accountable.Each individual manager must take responsibility for directing the on-boarding process for his or her own employees. This means spending time to acquaint new hires with company policies, procedures, and traditions. Within the first 90 days, the new employee needs to feel totally aligned with the company’s vision and mission, and totally committed to its success. Each manager must develop a training program that not only covers the standard orientation information session but also provides the employee with a personal training and development agenda to be completed within the first 90 to 180 days. The manager also needs to provide a check-in schedule, so that the new employee knows when he will be debriefing or going over personal progress reports with the manager.
3. Put out the welcome mat.Every new employee needs to feel at home from Day One. This means getting ready ahead of time so that there are no missing pieces. All the paperwork is assembled and ready to complete. Someone is available to walk the employee through the how-to, such as enrolling in the insurance program, signing up for the 401-k, the daycare facility, or the softball team. The photo ID badge is issued on the first day so that the new hire doesn’t have to deal with security issues.Someone is designated as the go-to person if questions come up during the first week or two. Most important, every new employee should be put on a team and given a meaningful project or work responsibility to get started on.
Corporate management needs to view employee retention strategies as an investment that pays dividends, not an expense to be avoided. Time and money spent now will add strength to the talent pool and dollars to the bottom line.
Whether it’s an executive coaching program or a strategy development conference, Joel has some answers for you. Contact him today.
Talkback: Is employee turnover costing you money? Or perhaps you’ve tried a strategy that worked. Tell us about your experience.
~ Dave Olsen, Starbucks Chief Coffee Buyer ~
Client Robert Asks: I’m losing people right and left, and I don’t understand why. I’d think that, in this job market, people would be happy just to have a job. We have a good orientation program. But my turnover rate is through the roof and I know it’s costing the company money. What can I do to stop the bleeding? I think I need to design an employee retention program.
Coach Joel Answers: You’re right—losing employees is an expensive proposition. Companies that deal successfully with this issue don’t just rely on an orientation meeting and an employee handbook. An effective program to retain employees involves the entire company and can last a month or two, or even six. Successful on-boarding is the key to employee retention and your program needs to focus more on emotional take-aways than just a list of activities to be checked off. You need to answer these three questions for every new hire:
- Who are we?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
1. Who are we? Most new employees already know something about the company because they’ve been through the recruiting process, so don’t waste a lot of time and energy on company history. Instead, spend time talking about how the company is structured and who reports to whom, both formally and informally. Visuals are helpful here—organization charts, annual reports, and promotional materials, for example. Talk about the company’s value proposition. What sets us apart from our competitors? How do we make money? Why are we successful?
Emphasize how the company treats its customers and clients. Introducing new employees to key clients as part of the formal on-boarding process is a great tactic, but at the very least, have some anecdotes and experiences to share. This makes it real.
2. Why am I here? Establish a clear understanding in each new employee’s mind about how their department and specific job fits into the overall company picture. Make them feel important. Be clear about what you expect from both the department and the employee. This includes short and long term goals, major projects, deadlines and deliverables. Show them how the work gets done. Don’t worry too much about rules and red tape at this point. Instead, get them started on a key project or activity right away, so they know they are adding value to an already valuable business enterprise.
3. Where am I going? The first two steps in the program lay a good foundation for retaining employees, but retention won’t really take hold until the employee feels at home. You can make this happen by helping new employees become a part of the organization as quickly as possible. This starts with introducing them to colleagues and company leaders but that’s only the beginning. Your job is to make them feel that they are part of a great company and that you feel lucky to have them as part of the team. Let them know that relationships count and that their colleagues and the company are there to support both their growth and their contribution. Let them know you’ll have their back, so they are not afraid to try new things.
Show them the path ahead, which includes how to navigate the corporate ladder, what kinds of training, coaching, and personal growth programs are available to them, and how they fit into the company’s future. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about them. Make them feel emotionally involved and committed, and they will be yours for life!
Talkback: Have you tried some employee retention programs that worked? What do your employees say? Share your story here.