Leaders need to embrace their obligation to develop future leaders, but in today’s fast-moving business environment, it’s easy to allow active involvement in leadership development to take a back seat to the challenges of the day. An executive’s accountabilities, however, requires balancing resources to allow for investment in future growth—growth that may be dependent on tomorrow’s leadership talent. Therefore, holding leaders accountable for developing their people is crucial; without such accountability, succession pipelines and even a company’s market performance can suffer.
In fact, a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that even in high-performance organizations (HPOs) of 1,000+ employees, more than half admitted that not holding leaders accountable for developing their people hindered the acceleration of leadership development. This transgression tied (with shallow succession plans) as the top hindrance to such development. What’s more, of 17 potential barriers studied, lack of accountability had the second highest negative correlation to market performance, suggesting that addressing this problem could actually give organizations a competitive advantage.
Auditing your leadership development accountability quotient
Here are some questions leaders can ask themselves about their behaviors related to taking responsibility for leadership development:
- Do you get involved in the on-the-job development of high potentials/future leaders?
- Do you monitor the employee’s behavior for evidence of using the skills or knowledge addressed by leadership development programs?
- If the expected development has not occurred, do you dig to find out what is hindering the development? For example, the problem may lie with the student, the program content, the instructor or another factor.
If the answers to these questions are mostly “no,” it may be that you are prone to thinking your job is done after you’ve sponsored or enrolled an employee in a leadership development program. But demonstrating accountability for the leadership development of your people requires ongoing involvement in building skills, observing their use and providing opportunities to strengthen them.
Building a leadership development accountability model
In addition to developing one’s own employees, leaders also need to consider teamwork to ensure broadening skills while breaking down silos. Every leader has specialized skills, commendable traits or innate strengths that may be just what another employee needs. Consider these potential offerings:
- A procurement executive shares negotiating skills
- A training executive shares presentation skills
- A financial executive shares budgeting skills
- A sales executive shares how to create a business case to support a decision
- An operations executive shares a resource allocation plan
The beneficiaries of such developmental pairings learn valuable skills, the benefactors build their own training and coaching expertise, and the organization benefits by having leaders at all levels learning from leaders.
Coaching’s role in leadership development
While this framework of leaders learning from other executives certainly builds collaboration, camaraderie and a sense of teamwork, it may also serve another organizational need uncovered by the i4cp study: In focusing on the acceleration of development in high-potential (hi-po) employees, more than half of survey respondents said that the success of their organization’s hi-po development program was significantly hindered by leaders of hi-pos that are just not that effective at coaching and managing them.
A practice of leaders developing leaders provides those doing the teaching with important opportunities to hone their coaching skills. Additionally, it adds to a “coaching culture” in the organization – a factor that was found to be highly correlated to market performance. Following are some of the characteristics present in an organization with a coaching culture:
- Coaching is a required component of the leadership development curriculum.
- Training in how to coach includes plenty of opportunity for role-play.
- Training in coaching addresses how to coach a wide variety of personalities.
- Coaching is actively used in performance management.
- Coaching is used informally in project teams.
A culture of accountability
Creating a culture of coaching promotes an environment of leaders developing leaders. This, in turn, better prepares the organization’s future leaders and promotes a culture of leadership development accountability.
i4cp members can download the full report, Accelerating High-Potential Employees on the Path to Leadership, to learn more. Not an i4cp member? Watch the complimentary on-demand webinar associated with the report.