“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
~ Lee Iacocca ~
Dylan is responsible for the succession management of his large company. “Sometimes the results have been frustrating,” Dylan says. “We plan. We prepare them. We check the past performance of our top employees.
“And still, when they step into that leadership role, sometimes the ramp-up takes far too long. Sometimes they are less than what we expected.”
Dylan decided to use more quantifiable tools to help him gauge the talent performance of those within his succession program. “I thought if I could learn some triggers or some key performance measures beyond the standard reviews and recommendations, maybe we could do better.”
Dylan’s goal was to increase the success of those stepping into management roles.
1. Personality. Dylan determined that personality plays a key role in predicting the success of promotions. “Of course other factors are important,” Dylan said. “But all things being equal, personality matters.”
It wasn’t just that Dylan wanted hard-chargers at the top. But when he understood the personality of the candidates in the succession management, he had a better feel where to place them. Some departments would respond better to a consensus builder and cheerleader. Others required a firm take-charge attitude.
To check this out, Dylan explored tools like the traditional Myers-Briggs interest inventory as well as newer personality assessments with labels of colors and gems. He found many of them gave the broad-brush assessment he needed.
“For example,” Dylan said. “My R&D department needed someone who was patient with the facts and science and yet willing to encourage and be open to exploration. The past leader really pushed for results and was impatient with explanations—excuses, he called them. It didn’t bring out the best in my scientists.”
2. Skill Sets. Dylan worked to find tools that could accurately assess the skill sets of the rising talent. Of course past performance was measured. But often new skill sets were needed for the future job.
Dylan had current leaders assess the skills needed for their jobs. Then he found ways to measure the abilities of those selected for succession. He sometimes gave them a project that called for these skills.
On key abilities, Dylan asked a co-worker or mentor to evaluate the worker for several weeks. He asked them to look specifically for that talent or skill, and assess the employee’s mastery of it.
When there was a gap between need and skill set, Dylan worked to train the employee in that area before the promotion and the need to have that skill arrived.
3. Drive. In the past, management had gathered to discuss who they felt should be part of the succession plan. “I know this is important,” Dylan said. “But I thought we needed to add another element.” Dylan wanted those interested to “raise their hands.”
“I wanted those motivated enough to step up and say, ‘Pick me,'” Dylan said. “I think that extra measure of confidence, initiative, and drive matters.”
In the review process, they added a series of questions.
- Where do you hope to be 2 years from now?
- What steps do you plan to take to get there?
- What is your next step right now?
As Dylan implemented these tools in his succession management, he saw the talent performance of the newly promoted rise. “I’ve been very pleased with the results,” Dylan said. “I think matching personalities, analyzing skill sets, and assessing drive has helped us step up our promotions. At this point, I feel very comfortable with our succession plan.”
Do you want to make sure your talent performs up to expectations when placed in your succession management? If so, contact Joel for assessment and coaching.
Talkback: What extra steps have you taken to see that your top talent is properly prepared for the succession slot they are expected to fill?
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“Why do I need succession planning? I’m very alert. I’m very vibrant. I have no intention to retire.”
~ Sheldon Adelson ~
Marshall, the CEO of a large IT firm, will turn 65 this year. Lately he’s been hearing some rather pointed comments from several of his C-level managers about “succession planning.” He’s beginning to feel rather sensitive and more than a little defensive about his age. Until one day his HR director, Maria, gives him a wake-up call that shifts his thinking.
“Look, Marshall,” Maria says. “This is not about you. It’s about the company and giving some thought to our future. There’s a book title I love—Hope Is Not a Strategy. The smart farmer hopes for sunshine but he plans for rain. That’s what we need to do—not just for your position but for all of us that our stockholders count on to keep the business running.”
After sleeping on it, Marshall gives Maria the go-ahead to come up with some tools they can use to put a succession plan in place for the company’s top-level executive and management positions. After a few weeks, she reports back to the executive committee with recommendations for a three-step process that could be implemented by almost any company.
• Evaluate your situation
• Create a talent pool
• Asses and train
1. Evaluate your situation. First, of course, the company needs to consider the key positions in its current structure. Ask yourself, “If Joe got struck by a meteor tomorrow, what would we do?” But it doesn’t stop there. You also need to look into the future and brainstorm about new challenges and opportunities that will demand new leadership.
2. Create a talent pool. Once you’ve isolated key present and future positions, see who’s there now and where holes or vacancies may exist. For each of these functions or roles, identify the core competencies, knowledge and skills they require. Then look throughout the company for potential superstars. Look for high performing and high potential employees, people who have the skills you need, or who may be overlooked or underutilized in their present positions.
3. Assess and train. Start by having two-part conversations with your high potentials and high performers. The first conversation should focus on comprehensive self-development. Find out what kinds of training they might need to prepare them for moving up. This could be anything from working with an executive coach to enrolling in an MBA program. Begin a mentoring program designed to expose high potential employees to the positions they might hold in the future.
The second conversation is designed to determine what will motivate employees to stay with you. Find out about their long-range career plans. Get their perspective on the company as it is. Find out where they think it’s headed and if they want to go along for the ride. Make sure they see the big company picture and have a clear vision of their place in it.
It took several months, but Marshall and Maria, along with the company’s other C-level managers, used these tools to develop a workable plan that they could implement in the event of both planned and unplanned vacancies in key positions.
“I think the company is on a much more solid footing now,” Marshall told Maria. “I may live to be a hundred, but just in case I don’t, I’m confident that our future is in good hands.”
If your company needs to create or update its succession plan, contact Joel to find out exactly what steps you should take.
Talkback: Do you have some succession planning strategies that have worked for you? We’d love to hear your ideas, so share your story here.
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~ Stephen R. Covey ~
Client Rebecca Asks: I’m fairly new here and my company seems to rank pretty low on the trust scale. I want to create a more open, trusting environment where my people feel free to share and grow. How can I use your executive coaching tools to work around my corporate culture without making waves?
Coach Joel Answers: Executive coaching and the work we do together can give you the tools you need create the environment you want, regardless of your company’s philosophy or operating style. So let’s talk about what trust actually looks like and the tools you can use to build it within your own team. Here are four key trust factors that I’d recommend putting at the top of your list:
- Be consistent
- Show respect
- Create transparency
- Have their back
1. Be consistent. Why is consistency important? Sometimes people associate consistency with someone who’s a plodder, boring or lacking initiative. I see it differently in the corporate environment. When you’re trying to build trust, it’s letting people know where you’re coming from, reassuring them that you’re not going to change your mind about key issues and assignments without warning. Your people will produce their best work when they know you’re giving them guidance without restricting their initiative or creativity. .
2. Show respect. A lot of managers, especially those who are relatively new on the job, are anxious to get the respect of their team. But you have to give before you get. There are many small ways you can show respect for your people. Ask their opinion about projects and work assignments. Show respect for their time. Start and end meetings on time. Keep appointments and don’t cancel at the last minute unless it’s an emergency. Respond promptly to their emails and phone calls.
3. Create transparency. In a lot of companies where the overall trust level is low, people feel left out of the process. You can start to reverse this trend by being open and honest about decisions. Open communication is a powerful tool. Don’t just tell people when a decision has been made; show them what’s behind it. Share the big picture so people know about company as well as departmental goals and objectives. Unless facts and figures are confidential, share them with your people on a regular basis. Above all, avoid having a hidden agenda.
4. Have their back. People need to know that you have their best interests at heart. Make a list of your key people and, at least once a week, ask them how things are going. Then really listen to their answers and engage in a dialog. Speak up for your people in meetings. Be their advocate. Give public credit for good ideas within your department and promote their ideas to company leaders whenever you can.
An environment without trust is an environment with poor motivation, low productivity, and high turnover. By using these four coaching tools, you can build a strong team and create a workplace where your people feel valued and challenged to do their best.
Is your workplace missing the all-important trust factor? To jump-start your own action plan, begin creating these 4 steps immediately. If you have any questions, please contact Joel.
Talkback: What have you done to build trust in your work group? What advice would you give someone whose company environment was low on the trust scale? Share your ideas here.
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