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Joe Ruocco: The Essentials for Successful Leadership Development

What causes a leadership development process to be a success (or a failure)? Few people are better suited to answer this question than Joe Ruocco, former Chief Human Resources Officer for The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Under Ruocco's leadership, the percentage of ready-now successors for the top positions at Goodyear more than tripled as a direct result of the implementation and execution of a world-class global talent management and leadership development process, leading to Goodyear's inclusion on AON Hewitt's 2014 list of Top Companies for Leaders.

In 2015, Joe established Ruocco Consulting, LLC where he partners with and advises CEOs, CHROs
and other business leaders in all aspects of Human Resources strategies and tactics to drive business success. He also serves as Senior Advisor to CamberView Partners, a leading source of independent, investor-led advice for management teams and boards of public companies on how to succeed
with investors.

Joe RuoccoRuocco will outline the seven key attributes for an effective leadership development and talent management process at the i4cp 2016 Conference, March 29 – April 1. We sat down with him recently to gain some early insights into what he finds most critical for success.

What are the most effective elements or actions needed to ensure success in leadership development?

Three elements are the most critical to an effective process and system as it relates to leadership development and talent management:

  1. The first is top leadership support and ownership. The senior leadership team of a company and its board of directors need to be actively involved in the global talent management and leadership development initiatives. It has to start at the top of the house--this means being involved in formal succession and talent reviews, mentoring programs, informal exposure to high-potential talent, interviewing candidates for key leadership positions, and acting as faculty for leadership training. Some CEOs spend 30 to 40 percent of their time developing leaders and other talent, so it's important that the senior leadership team and the board invest in identifying and developing the best leaders and talent.
  2. Second, there has to be alignment between the business strategy and talent strategy. As senior leaders talk about what's important—the key how-to's in their strategy, what the critical imperatives to execute on the strategy are—one of those has to be having top talent or top teams. This has to be institutionalized into the fabric of the company, because otherwise it won't become a priority. Having it as a strategic priority and having congruent metrics and reward systems are key to helping that alignment between the business strategy and talent strategy. This leads me to the next one, which is metrics.
  3. You get what you measure, and in order to move the needle on talent management and development, leaders need to be measured just like they are on revenue, earnings, and cash flows. There have to be targets and metrics for the leaders on how they are building talent and teams, and then you have to hold them accountable and embed it into the compensation system.

What aren't chief HR officers thinking about (that they should be) when it comes to leadership development—what important considerations tend to be overlooked?

When I look at some of the companies that are doing leadership development best and those that are struggling, the ones that are doing it best:

  1. Have invested in a talented, world-class HR team. What some CHROs miss is that they think they can just jump right into creating a world-class talent management and leadership development process before building their own HR team. You need a top HR team to drive talent and leadership development. While business leaders are the owners of the process, the HR team members are the advocates, the facilitators, the implementers.
  2. In any company, regardless of what stage of maturity they're at, there has to be a balanced approach to hiring externally and building from within. My personal belief is that the majority of positions should be filled from within, but it's clear you also have to hire the right people externally as well. CHROs have to be ambidextrous and do both, by building talent from within while supplementing the pool with what they buy externally.
  3. CHROs can become too internally focused and think what's going on in their own company is the best that is out there. CHROs need to be magnets for both internal and external best practices and spend a great deal of time looking at state-of-the-art thinking on top leadership and talent development and then implement the best ideas.

In your opinion, which companies are doing a great job at leadership development?

At Goodyear, we looked at a lot of companies and best practices. Maybe I'm a little biased having grown up in this system, but I still believe GE is one of the best. There are a lot of great examples out there—IBM, P&G, American Express, McDonald's. You see very strong institutionalized processes in all of those companies; they treat their talent process with equal weight as their strategy process and budget process, and they get results in terms of having top leaders and deep talent.

Where do you see things going next for leadership development?

We're going to see a couple different things. My view is that if you look at companies that are doing it well, you can kind of see where it will evolve. In general, I see two trends:

  1. Greater personal involvement of senior leaders and directors
  2. A greater trend toward developing global leaders. If you look at companies that do this well, for instance, you see Italians running a big global business out of Chicago, an Australian running China, a German running North America. The development of global leaders who can move to different roles and regions, gain that experience, and make an impact in places other than their home country is going to continue to be a greater trend. You want that because you need a deep pool of talent that can be there as successors for senior leadership positions. That talent doesn't need to come from within the U.S., and you see that in big global companies. Other companies need to move in that direction.

How should diversity and leadership development functions work together?

First, leadership development and diversity are not functions. They are responsibilities owned by all leaders in a company. That said, in many companies, the people responsible for leading diversity and leadership development initiatives are in the same function. They have to be. If you think about leadership development and talent management, it's about having a deep bench of talent and ready-now successors for key positions, and the only way you're going to get there is to have a diverse and inclusive culture and organization that has a very diverse pool of talent. The pool has to be tapping all potential demographics, and diversity has to be totally intertwined with global talent management. Otherwise you're not going to succeed.

Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.