One way to ensure a good source of future leaders who understand your company culture is to check in with your current staff members. Scot Hunsaker writes about the success of companies that groom managers. In his column for GreatLeadershipbyDan.com, Hunsaker explains how his receptionist became a member of the strategic planning team at Counsilman-Hunsaker.
Leaders often think they need to look outside the organization for new managers. This strategy works well if you want to change a company and shake up the status quo. If your goal is to maintain your current culture and optimize outcomes for your products and services, hire from within.
The tendency in many organizations is to put new hires on specific tracks. For example, the professional hired as an associate is usually destined to become a senior partner. Or, the sales rep can one day become a sales manager.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other staff professionals who engage with customers and vendors on a daily basis. These staffers have their fingers on the pulse of the cash flow and have a good idea about which products are doing well. These people are also the ones who volunteer their opinions and ideas about how to improve various processes. In addition to coming up with great ideas, these people are telling you something important – they want a bigger role in your organization. But, they don't always have an obvious career track.
In old-school organizations, these individuals, especially if they were female, were perceived to be overstepping. You can’t afford to be short-sighted. To retain and develop talent in our highly competitive environment, start identifying your stars now. For Hunsaker, that means realizing his receptionist had the potential to become a leader. She wasn't overstepping. Her optimism and outspoken nature inspired other staff members. Her enthusiasm about the future of the company led him to put her on a strategic planning team.
Hunsaker has his managers use a variety of tools to identify and develop potential leaders. You can do the same thing. Surveying employees and customers is one way to spot staff member strengths and weaknesses. Your managers can also encourage employees to take on projects designed to help them grow. Realize that they will encounter challenges and adversity. Don’t set up team members for failure, but don't rush to the rescue, either. The employees who think their way through these kinds of problems and ask, “what’s next?”, are the ones who show leadership potential.