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A startling article claims, “research has proven we’re experiencing a drastic leadership shortage on a global scale” and then it makes it sound worse. According to Inc. magazine, “eighty-five percent of companies have reported an urgent need to develop employees with leadership potential”. But, if this is you or your organization and you work with employees who remind you of knuckleheads or who prefer apparently to keep their potential well hidden, how do you find it, much less get it developed to avoid such a crisis? An urgent leader need is a real problem for you and for your organization. Coupled with record low unemployment numbers and the presence of a generation of workers most senior leaders would say have a low work ethic, this means we could be headed for a crisis far worse than the current brain drain and retirement of expert team members leaders are currently facing. There are solutions and there are ways to prevent it. Find that potential and drag it out kicking and screaming if needed, or instead, perhaps we state steps in a bit more prescriptive manner as our focus for this month’s Monday Moments is, in fact, to develop future leaders. Here are a few vital suggested actions to ward off an impending lack of leaders and potential crisis.

Stop Settling

Far easier said than done, now is an even more critical time in which to stop filling positions with people for whom breathing is their main qualification. Look for, test for, profile for, and interview for, not just attitude, not just skills, but potential. Don’t just take the candidate’s word for it that yes, they’d like to excel in the organization and remain loyal and stay there forever. Any candidate who wants a position will say nearly anything to secure it. Ask more questions. Spend more time. Hire slower and ask for examples of when they were loyal and did demonstrate ambition and leadership.

Start Planning

Your organization may have a succession plan already in place or may not. Your company may have a loose plan and think it is far more viable than is reality or it may not have been recently updated. But in your department, among your team of the people you have the privilege of leading, what is your plan for who will be the future leader? Start planning. Discuss it openly. Ask those you lead who would like to one day be promoted into leadership. Mind you, you’re not making promises and you’re not making any guarantees. You’re gauging interest and uncovering what might be missing. If no one is interested, it is time to find outside candidates for which leadership interest will be a priority. If everyone is interested, you’ll have what’s called a caviar problem.

Create Competition

Should every employee on the team you have the privilege of leading, decide that a future in leadership is their dream, consider creating a competition to showcase their skills and talents. Perhaps you have two teams work on one project and the winning team gets points on some public score board. Perhaps you assign a project to two different high potential team members and see who shows the most skills or results relevant to the possible promotable position. In either or both cases, be sure to explain transparently, what you are seeking to accomplish. Clarify that while there will be a winner and non-winner, those who do not win, will still have shown potential. Set up the competition in such a way that the non-winning team, while they may not get participation ribbons, still remains a productive part of your organization.

Showcase Specific Skill Sets

Current research continues to show that those who will excel in leadership in the future are those equipped with high levels of emotional intelligence, listening abilities, empathy, and assertive skills. While these may not be new traits needed by leaders, the value of them is certainly becoming more pronounced and as you develop those who will lead future team’s in your workplace, provide opportunities for employees to show these skills easily. Possibly add these traits to performance appraisals or expectations. Allow them to be noticed and measured, which will make them something on which each team member will then focus. Employees focus on what managers manage and measure.

Stay Focused

In a fast-moving environment, it is easy to shift focus to the most pressing customer need at the moment. It is easy to drop one project for another because a senior manager said this one is more important. It is easy to let time fly by thinking there will always be time to get back to your succession plan and if all is well at present, the urgent nature of staying focused on who will be your future leaders is non-existent. This approach leaves many teams and organizations fumbling when the unexpected happens. Keep the spotting of potential, improving hiring practices, and succession planning on your list. Talk about it in meetings monthly or quarterly. Do your part to stay focused on this issue or the next time a leader leaves, that will be the most pressing issue and finding an ideal replacement will risk being done in a hurry, resulting in settling for a less than stellar candidate.

Ready to Take the Become a Better Leader Challenge?

Each Monday Moment shares a Become a Better Leader Challenge relevant to that week’s topic and this week, your challenge is to put at least two of these five steps into action.

  • Add skills you’d like to see developed in your potential leaders to your one-on-one conversations or to their annual appraisals. Make these a key focus so that development continues to happen and both you and they are accountable.
  • Examine the team you have the privilege of leading and identify who would take your spot if you left or were promoted. Who would take their spot if you promoted that person and so on. Determine the potential people at least three layers deep and if you can’t, start looking for people with the ideal potential for those positions.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, stay Contagious!

Monica Wofford, CSP develops leaders. CEO of Contagious Companies, her firm designs and delivers leadership training for those managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.

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