One of the most challenging aspects of leadership development is consistently and effectively identifying the next wave of leaders.
It can be easy for those at the top to forget that eventually someone will have to take their place at the helm. And ignoring that fact has lead to issues with succession planning, unwanted turnover and other challenges in leadership development in many organisations.
2016 High Impact Leadership research from Bersin by Deloitte asked 2,422 HR and business leaders from around the world how well they believed they could discover new leadership talent. Just 35 percent of respondents said they were above average when it came to successfully identifying and developing leaders.
To understand why this is, consider the typical leadership development paradox. Traditionally, the first step is to choose who has leadership potential, then develop their skillset. Logically, however, this makes little sense.
How is it possible to identify effective leaders if employees have yet to receive any type of leadership development?
Here are four ways to properly identify better qualified candidates for leadership positions:
1Stop choosing potential leaders based on unrelated skills
Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report, which studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, found that the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role or because of their tenure with the company. Neither of those criteria have any proven correlation with leadership skills or relevant experience.
Create a better means of measuring for true leadership potential. Look at the culture of the organisation and envision what it would look like for someone to lead by those values.
Also consider how successful leaders evolved over time in the organisation. Then use that information to make a list of recognisable traits to look for as signs of leadership potential.
2Broaden leadership development to more employees
People learn and grow at their own unique pace. Requiring that an employee reach a certain position or be with the company for a certain number of years before they’re offered leadership opportunities holds back those who might be ready for more responsibility now. Or even worse, it might push those who aren’t yet ready into leadership roles.
Instead, let leadership development be a company-wide initiative. This gives more people the chance to take the next step in their career. It also creates a larger pool of possible great leaders to draw from across the organisation.
3Track progress and growth
There’s no way of knowing who is ready to step up and lead unless development is monitored. Remember that this is a process. Employees need feedback from their mentors and coaches to know for certain what skills they’ve mastered as well as where there can still be improvements made.
Develop a way to assess progress for different leadership positions, and be clear with employees and coaches about what success would look like in different situations. For instance, explain what is expected of a first time project leader.
Get everyone on the same page about the developing leader’s responsibilities and how that should guide their team.
Then collect thorough feedback from all those involved. Ask the leadership candidate what challenges they faced as well as where they think they thrived. Pose the same questions to those they supervised and organisational mentors.
Over time, this will reveal patterns that make it easier to identify who is best suited for leadership in the long-term.
4Focus on continual leadership development
There is no such thing as too much experience. There is always more that can be learned. After leadership candidates have been identified, continue to nurture them. This keeps employees from feeling that they have plateaued, which is unfortunately common.
The 2014 Insigniam Middle Management Survey: Middle Management’s Critical Role In Saving Company Innovation looked at responses from 200 middle managers from around the world. It found that only 15 percent of managers believe they will ever be promoted to the next level of leadership at their company.
Whether intentionally or not, employees who have proven their leadership abilities are being told that their leadership journey is over – and this hurts both them and the organisation. Encourage a steady stream of highly trained and skilled leaders working their way up by demonstrating that there is no end to development.
In order to clearly see who the next wave of leaders is going to be, employees need to be given the chance to hone and exercise their skills.
That means redefining how leadership potential is identified and providing each employee with the chance to develop personally and professionally.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Have You (Really) Put Your Business To The Test?
You should constantly test things in your business to see if they’re working. In that direction lies success.
There’s a pretty famous saying that people in business like to use: Always be closing, or ABC. It’s a very sales-driven concept that suggests that whatever you do, you should always be closing a sale.
I used to like that way of thinking: Drive your pipeline growth, work on the numbers and push the sales as hard as you can all the time.
That approach definitely works for certain types of businesses, but after a while it can be soul destroying work that leaves a business a bit hollow. So over the past few years I’ve been working on a tweaked methodology.
I call this method of building and selling: Always be testing or ABT.
The concept is simple. You should constantly be testing things in your business to see if they’re working. If they are working, great, you can then start testing how to improve them. If they’re not working, you find out and can start testing fixes for the problem.
This applies to your team, your product, your day-to-day strategy for selling, customer acquisition and anything else you can think of.
Start testing yourself
The obsession with testing things started in my personal life. I was doing it without realising what I was doing. I started waking up 15 minutes earlier every month and after a while I was spritely and awake by 5:30am and walking my dogs or working while everyone else was asleep.
Then I stopped eating sugar for a while to see if I’d feel better. I did. That didn’t last but I then stopped drinking coffee to see if I’d sleep better. I did. So now I don’t drink caffeine of any kind after 3pm.
I found that I was constantly testing out everything that I did and tweaking my life accordingly. So one day I realised that this model would probably work in my business: Small, frequent tests with specific goals in mind to try to learn something new or verify something old.
Testing requires reporting
Setting up tests is not difficult. But tracking the results of the test requires preparation. Interestingly, when I moved Nic Harry from a pure e-commerce company into physical retail, I discovered how slow real world retailers have been to use technology to track changes they make in store.
With nicharry.com we have been able to test, tweak and track results for years. I have many tests and lots of data to pour through when I want information about a decision. I can make a change on the homepage and see if it leads to more transactions than the previous homepage tweak. If it works, great, if it doesn’t, I go back to the way it was.
I decided to take this type of thinking into our flagship store by treating each wall and window as a web page. We kept notes of which socks were on which walls and which socks sold better where in the store.
After a few months we had figured out which walls were the hotspots in the store. Then we started to move the socks around and see if we could influence who purchased what just by placing the socks in a different place.
This type of tiny testing environment helps me understand my stores, my team and me products with granular detail. However it wouldn’t be possible if my systems weren’t set up properly to help me track these changes.
Why test something that works?
People often ask me why they should test something that is clearly working. Well, what if one day your product stops selling and you don’t know why? What if your core revenue stream dries up over the course of a few months or years and you haven’t noticed?
Testing helps me to stay in front of my problems. I can think of a stand out example of a company that stopped testing and ended up losing: Blackberry. Do you remember them? I do, but not many people will in a year or two.
It’s also worth remembering Kodak. Kodak was founded in 1888 and thrived for a century, literally. Then it stopped testing in the face of innovation all around the company and from within. In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection. The ironic part of the Kodak story is that digital photography killed their business. Why is this ironic? Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975 but didn’t test it in the market. They were worried it would eat into their existing business.
If only they had tested the product before they dropped it. Tests do not have to be large and complex. Implement systems that allow you to track the changes in your business whether online or offline. Then engage with your team about how they can help you to measure and manage the tests and then start with something small.
Testing for no reason is futile. It’s imperative to know what you’re testing and why. Once you’ve figured out your goals, start testing and never stop.
Leadership: A Potent Combination Of Strategy And Character
Business leadership and the love of a brand with John Nicolakakis, CEO of Roman’s Pizza.
“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.” – General Norman Schwarzkopf
In the context of a large number of businesses and franchises being over managed and under-led I found Roman’s Pizza to be a welcome exception.
As I walked into John Nicolakakis’ (CEO of Roman’s Pizza) office I was met with the confidence of a man whom has been in the trenches, one whom has done the hard work himself and who’s passion for the brand is visible in his demeanour and speech. As he put it: “My father and I love this brand like you would love a child, always nurturing it, and always looking after it.”
Him saying that, I recognised that I was sitting in front of a “cause fuelled” leader, one who finds purpose in what he does and whom derives energy from this purpose, and that increasing profit was definitely not the sole driving force of his success.
So many companies claim to have a clear vision and value system in place, but unfortunately in reality usually a vision and value system only remains theory. True values are lived by and become transparent through especially the leaderships’ behaviour.
“Best Pizza – Best Value” in the Roman’s Pizza context is definitely not a theoretical “mantra” being chanted in the hallways of their head office. John, realising that those two values forms the chore of the brand, makes all decisions accordingly. Costs are not being cut aggressively purely for the sake of it being prudent business practise but to deliver on the promise that the aforementioned values embody.
John is a clear communicator and no one from the head office team down to every franchisee, or any stakeholder can claim that they do not know what is expected of them. “We shoot from the hip” was the term he used and by how clearly and concisely he answered my questions there was no doubt what Roman’s Pizza stood for and what this brand means to its Leadership. It is also clear that although his communication style is very direct, the support to franchisees is also very direct and aimed at delivering on the values of the company.
Johns’ personal cell phone number is available on the company website and he interacts regularly with Roman’s Pizza customers directly and expects the same from all head office personnel. All of the above forms part of Roman’s Pizzas’ rich culture.
Mastering any aspect of life, business, or leadership, is inherently about the ability to simplify what appears to be complex. John has a simplistic view on the difference between leadership and management and is clear on what that means in relation to his role as CEO.
“Leadership is the future, and management is the here and now.”
To lead by example John has spent a lot of time micro managing certain elements of the business, but is also deliberately freeing up more and more of his time to work on the future vision of this industry leading company and to maintain and build its culture.
General Norman Schwarzkopf had the trust of his soldiers as he understood that leadership was about showing the way. As he was a decorated Vietnam veteran he knew what the soldiers under his command went through and had their best interest at heart. As is key to any relationship he had the trust of his soldiers and therefore they were agile in their execution of his orders.
Similarly, Roman’s Pizza is a brand built on the foundation of trust and as a result an agile brand. Leaders are followed and trusted when they consistently behave in a way which is congruent with the company vision and values. In general, Roman’s Pizza franchisees trust their leaders as the company owns several stores and goes through the same challenges as the franchisees.
A learning culture is part of the Roman’s Pizza ethos and learning is in part done through experimentation by head office. When an experiment fails the cost of failure is not passed onto the franchisee but is incurred by head office through a reduction in royalties for a period of time.
John himself reads and learns all the time and encourages all head office staff to do the same. He immediately had a Jim Collins quote handy when I asked him about the Roman’s Pizza approach to change: “Test things with bullets, not with bombs “, alluding to the incremental approach to change that this franchise system has adopted.
In conclusion I believe that most will agree with General “Stormin Norman” Schwarzkopf that Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. After close observation I am impressed enough by this brand to say Roman’s Pizza has both.
If 80 Percent Of Success Is Showing Up Then 20 Percent Is Following up
The excuses are many, but the solution is surprisingly simple.
Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success in life is just showing up. Now granted, Woody Allen also defended dating his adopted daughter by saying, “The heart wants what it wants,” so holding him up as a paragon of sound judgment may not be my best move. But if Woody is right, then I (another man whose history of poor judgment and worse choices would give a prudent person pause) would offer that the other 20 percent of success is following up.
Entrepreneurs often fail on both these counts. Showing up is more than merely putting in a physical appearance. It’s also intellectually showing up. When you show up intellectually it means you are truly listening to your customer’s needs and pain points and crafting a solution to their problems. Instead, too many solution providers come into a sales call with a solution in mind and then expend copious amounts of energy trying to convince the customer that the prefabricated solution will fit the customer’s needs. When you sell hammers, all you see is nails.
I see a lack of follow up torpedoing more deals than a lack of showing up. Some vendors (and I admit I have been one) practically make you beg for a quote. They get busy, and I get that.
They have bigger and more exciting quotes to write; I get that, too. But I have an immediate need, and if they aren’t there immediately, well, there can be only two outcomes. Either I will get someone else to do fill it; or, I will realise that my immediate need wasn’t all that immediate – or indeed, even a need.
I’ve seem more deals evaporate that way than ones that collapse. In fact, I have lost more deals because of a lack of follow up than I have lost to price, to competition, or to outbreaks of the plague (an admittedly low percentage of my losses), added together.
So why do we do it? Why do we fail to follow up to be responsive to existing or potential customers? The most common excuses are:
Saying you don’t have time to follow up is ridiculous. It’s like receiving atrocious service in a restaurant and being told with a shrug, “Sorry, we’re really busy.”
Being the charmer I am, I usually respond by saying “that’s the kind of problem that tends to solve itself.”
Not following up because you are too busy resolves itself in the same way that water finds its own level. Customers who don’t want to get poor service or have inordinate wait-time go elsewhere, and you’re left with a clientele that is the appropriate size for your capacity to deliver.
Not exactly a solid growth strategy. You had better hope that this clientele size matches up with your ability to make a profit or you will “too busy” yourself into bankruptcy. Not having time to follow up is akin to saying you don’t have time to be successful.
You make time to be successful, and if that means biting the bullet and hiring more staff or weeding out the low performers, then that’s what you need to do.
Too much on our plates
Having too many things on your plate may at first seem to be the exact same condition on as being too busy, but it really isn’t.
How often do we find ourselves with hundreds of tasks that would take only a moment to complete, but we become so overwhelmed in the minutia that we don’t get them done? Or we tell ourselves that because it will only take a minute we don’t have to worry about it.
The task gets pushed and pushed, and pretty soon the opportunity is gone. This isn’t a case of being too busy; it’s being too disorganised.
This can be easily fixed either by delegating effectively, getting a highly organised assistant to nag you into getting things done, or training and discipline. But whatever you do it has to get done.
Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid In Sales
Bottom of the pile
Not all business opportunities are created equal and to treat a low potential or low yield opportunity the same as you would a game changing opportunity is just soft-headed. But you can’t keep stacking “higher priority” opportunities atop the less promising leads, otherwise there will never be any follow up.
Instead of piling on top of the opportunity that requires follow up, delegate the opportunity to a lower level worker – it’s a great learning opportunity and you risk very little by giving it to them.
Remember those who cannot be trusted to handle small projects won’t get the opportunity to handle large ones.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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