Tips on Developing Your Leadership Team

Every organization values leadership, but how much planning and effort do they put into building the leaders of tomorrow?

Daily operations and concerns often get in the way of this lofty goal, frequently at the expense of internal employee development. As we’ve noted before, rather than looking externally for individuals with leadership potential, “many times it’s more efficient, cost-effective and morale-boosting to develop tomorrow’s leaders from within your present-day workforce.” DSC2344

Committing to leadership growth from within involves more than just lip-service to an honorable goal. How can you identify and nurture those people within your business and groom them for key leadership roles in the months and years to come? Here are tips:

Know what leadership stands for. “Leadership” comes in many forms and styles. As a result, no generic approach will work for your business. Look at your company’s big picture, notes HR expert Paul Keijzer. Frame your leadership discussions around “the overall objective, the purpose of the organization and how you are aiming to achieve it … all those meaningful hard discussions that build a stronger, sustainable future for the organization.”

Identify your most promising candidates. In the hardwood lumber industry, just like many other industries, many times it’s more efficient, cost-effective and morale-boosting to develop tomorrow’s leaders from within your present-day workforce. Who “fits the profile” of a budding leader? The logical first place to start is with employees who consistently demonstrate high abilities and performance (as evidenced by the feedback of co-workers as well as their own performance evaluations). Cast your net as wide as possible, looking at both managers and employees who often work above and beyond their job responsibilities or who have demonstrated leadership potential as a project team leader.

Offer opportunities to grow. Appointing a promising individual to lead a project team is a great way to assess that person’s leadership capabilities. Consider inviting industry experts to make in-house presentations on how to grow within your business. Create a mentorship program that matches your best senior executives with top-performing employees. These strategies can dramatically increase the likelihood you’ll identify and groom the best candidates for your company’s future.

Give leadership candidates the chance to make key decisions. Effective leaders know how to make important decisions, and the only way they learn is by experience. Let everyone know that the individual you’ve chosen to lead a project has authority to handle that particular challenge or issue, and he or she is empowered to make decisions to resolve the matter. Without that public acknowledgement, your leadership candidate may be perceived as ineffectual—a serious blow to his or her potential leadership abilities.

Celebrate a prospective leader’s achievements (and learn from failures). When a leadership candidate’s decisions and actions culminate in a success for the organization, don’t be shy about letting everyone know. Celebrating these achievements gives the individual the kind of in-house credibility that helps cement his or her status as a future leader.

In the same respect, if the individual’s contributions fail to produce a desired effect, “come together to redirect your efforts or turn it into something positive,” advises business speaker Cynthia Johnson. “Don’t throw anyone under the bus or turn a damage-control discussion into a blame game. This never helps anybody.”

Encourage networking efforts. Prospective leaders grow when they’re out and about at networking events, representing your organization. These individuals come to be seen as the “face” of your business, while gaining great experience as someone to follow as they move up in the company. It’s also a good idea to have their individuals host in-house social events, so they get to know others beyond their own departments.

Leaders may be “born,” but to be genuinely effective, they need to be cultivated throughout their careers. When the time comes to step into a leadership role, your company can truly benefit from having someone from within take over the reins.

How do you cultivate the leaders in your oranization? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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