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C-Suite Development - More High-Touch than High-Tech

LeadershipIncreasingly, we hear from both HR research and the media about the importance of understanding human capital metrics. These metrics frequently present aggregated numbers in order to identify trends or areas of concern intended to help leaders monitor and manage human capital programs. An occasional consequence of this analysis is the loss of focus on the individual--the "human" in Human Resources. An important theme that emerged from the recent Executive Leadership Development Exchange 2013 Fall Forum was the increased importance of getting to know the individual leader balanced with using metrics to manage HR processes.

i4cp's recently completed research conducted in partnership with the American Management Association underscores the importance of knowing key performers as individuals--this is as important as learning about the markets and cultures in which organizations do business. Donna Parrey, i4cp senior research analyst and leading author of the report, Next Practices for Global-minded Organizations, presented on how matching these individual factors with assignments, cultures, competition, and market is an important practice that differentiates higher-performing organizations.

Pat Nazemetz, former CHRO of Xerox and speaker at the upcoming i4cp 2014 Conference, also addressed the importance of the high touch theme in her presentation. She shared key insights gained through her career developing and working with senior leaders and executives at Xerox. High-performing organizations have long recognized that succession management and executive development must be fully integrated for either to be successful. However, Pat explained, connecting them and successfully maximizing their contribution is more about high-touch than high-tech at this level. She highlighted the following insights and subtleties about this importance:

  1. Up-to-date personal knowledge of each individual officer and those in the succession pool is essential to managing an effective successor transition for senior officers.
  2. The effective "marriage" of career and life planning with succession planning is essential for effective chief officer succession management.
  3. Integrating open and candid self assessment with career and life planning also increases the value and success of the succession plan.
  4. Modern succession planning for chief officers doesn't end with having sufficient numbers of successors to backfill behind them. It also includes planning what these chief officers will do after leaving the company--including helping them plan for their retirements.

Pat’s full slide deck may be accessed by clicking: "Escalators and Exits" (Exchange members only)

In discussing practical steps to increase the development value of rotational assignments for executives, Jeff McHenry, former executive director of leadership development at Microsoft, reinforced the importance of “high touch" in maximizing the value and effectiveness of these developmental assignments. He encouraged participants to have regular and personal discussions with their executives to learn about career interests, personal and family life events, and other issues that affect executives. Including off-the-job interests and issues is equally important to consider when planning developmental assignments for senior leaders and officers.

According to Jeff, value points that distinguish highly successful developmental opportunities from standard rotational assignments include:

  1. Involve the Leader of the developmental assignment early to help identify the potential developmental elements of the role. Identify the interests and concerns of the position's leader and reinforce their role in making it successful.
  2. Utilize multiple sources of candidate information (assessment, performance review, executive perception, 360 evaluations, safety & operating results, etc.) for each candidate in the top-talent pool; update at least annually with interviews with individuals from each source.
  3. Utilize a senior management council approach to match candidates with assignments. This helps to build senior team collaboration and collective / corporate ownership of the talent vs. parochial ownership or talent protectionism.
  4. Clearly explain the reason and expectations for the new assignment well in advance of the move and link it to earlier career and succession plan discussions. Jointly build a plan that is mutually beneficial to the leader and the organization.
  5. Monitor and manage progress and perceptions regularly throughout the assignment from four key areas: Actual results, the employee, performance coach, and subordinates and peers. Continue discussions with the employee focusing on original developmental objectives.
  6. Debrief with the employee approximately six months prior to the end of the assignment continuing through six months after the move. Review progress on developmental objectives. Update career and succession plan data. Discuss potential next assignments.

More information is available at: "Mechanisms and Catalysts for Leadership Development" (Exchange members only)

It's easy for development professionals to become focused on process execution and occasionally lose sight of the importance of the individual when designing and implementing development experiences. It's important to balance the objectives of the process with the individualized needs of emerging leaders to maximize the value for both the executive and the organization.

Learn more about the Executive Leadership Deveopment Exchange and how you can join.