Let's face it: At the core of every successful company is a team of good leaders making good decisions.
When you set out to identify future leaders to move your company forward, do you know what to look for? Could you easily identify what each of their futures holds?
Better yet, if you're not a corporate giant with an immense HR budget to spend on all the talent management bells and whistles, do you at least have a basic system and structure in place with the proper tools to evaluate your talent?
No? Then this article is for you.
I'm going to give you 12 ways that you can go about finding your future leaders. Some of these require looking for specific behaviors. Others require implementing processes. Have at it.
1. Use a predictive assessment tool.
Many companies fall short in the assessment of predictive talent. Such tools eliminate the tendency of leaders to pick people who closely resemble themselves.
Such predictive assessments are useful in identifying high-potentials as well as weeding out those who are a poor fit for leadership roles.
Before choosing an assessment, managers must determine what success looks like for each leadership role, and align those skills and characteristics to success factors on the job. The leadership skills and disciplines you're assessing should be future-focused to ensure your high-potentials have capacity to execute a strategy moving forward.
Most assessments will also inspect a person's past and present behaviors on the job, why they behave a certain way, and when and where he or she is most likely to behave similarly in a future context.
I'm not a big fan of 360s, so implement individual leadership assessments and questionnaires and simulations that you can replicate in a scenario any potential leader could realistically face.
2. Focus on potential, not performance.
Sure, performance is a measure of ability and expertise, and necessary to identify a leader, but you need to look beyond performance to understand an employee's desire and aptitude to grow, develop others, cast a vision, communicate superbly, build a team, and influence all levels of the organization.
What you'll find is that some of your employees will show high performance, but they just aren't cut out to be leaders, as much as they'd like to be in that role. Proceed with caution, and always give more weight to potential than performance on the leadership scale.
3. Evaluate your high-potentials on coaching skills.
Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, documents that company's incredible financial turnaround in her recent book Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others.
She describes how she created a culture expressed in the principles of how the team works together. One of those principles is coaching--a leadership competency, Bachelder says, for which the company wants to be best in class.
She develops her leaders to be coaches. People, especially Millennials, gravitate to leaders who will coach them to success. So look for coaching and mentoring competencies, and listen for coaching stories by other employees, to evaluate your high potentials.
4. Evaluate someone's investment in the company's future.
High-potential leaders will display a high degree of interest in company goals, and engage in its future plans and strategy. They are "all in" and are invested in the future.
In assessing these high-potentials, ask these questions: "Does this employee proactively contribute good ideas and propose strategies for improving the workplace, growing the business, or streamlining a process? Does she show interest in going above and beyond to get results on behalf of the team, the organization?"
If you answered yes, chances are you've identified an employee with the makings of a future leader.
5. Farm your own in-house talent.
The cost of retaining and developing your work force is cheaper than hiring from the outside. Creating in-house leadership development programs is a great way to evaluate and identify your high-potentials further down the path.
Note: Be specific and target your leadership development to the needs of individuals and the company. Off-the-shelf "pick and mix" programs are rarely the solution they promise to be, and they are an ineffective approach to meeting real development needs.
6. Replace annual performance reviews.
In this rapidly paced, constantly changing global economy, you'll need to review and evaluate talent not on an annual basis, but on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. The biggest factor for having real-time, "pulse surveys" to review talent is to influence change. They help companies quickly align performance goals with the desires and goals of high-potential employees.
7. Implement job rotation.
Give high-potentials firsthand experience by rotating them through different roles and functions within the organization. The point is to challenge, push, and stretch their skill level. Put them in unfamiliar roles, give them new responsibilities so they get exposure to new skills, and expand their expertise.
8. Interview current and past managers and employees.
Get the input of current or previous managers and employees who have worked directly with your high-potentials and add it to your assessment of the right leadership behaviors that match the job.
Mentors are also in a great position to give input on whether someone has what it takes to lead well.
Be objective and use behavioral-style interview techniques to ensure you're collecting valid data. Choose whom you interview carefully to eliminate the risk of partiality.
Lastly, as you scout around, avoid asking leading questions like, "Do you think Dave in Sales makes a good leader?" Ask people who they think would make a good future leader.
9. Evaluate current and past job performance.
Looking at an employee's work history is just as important as current performance. It will help decision makers better ascertain whether, early on, a high-potential employee has demonstrated good leadership.
10. Look for the people driving for results.
Author and influencer Daniel Goleman says you should look for leaders who are driven to achieve beyond expectations--their own and everyone else's. The first sign is a passion for the work itself. Such people, says Goleman, "seek out creative challenges, love to learn, and take great pride in a job well done. They also display an unflagging energy to do things better. They are also eager to explore new approaches to their work."
11. Search for evidence of emotional intelligence.
As I've written in the past, look for signs of EQ in your high-potential leaders. Do they exhibit these traits?
1. They communicate well and express their feelings clearly and directly.
2. Their thoughts aren't dominated by negative emotions like fear, worry, hopelessness, and victimization.
3. They have a high-degree of self-awareness and ask questions like, "Why do the same issues keep coming up over and over?" Then they do something to change that.
4. They assess and process a situation carefully and from all angles, drilling down until getting to the root of the matter.
5. They are not motivated by power, wealth, status, fame, or approval. They are, instead, intrinsically motivated and humble enough to always do the right thing.
12. Evaluate for resilience.
Resilience is found only after you can accept failure and try again, a different way. Thomas Edison once said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
Resilience should be a measurable trait, so look for a mindset that will always explore and diagnose why the same issue keeps coming up over and over.
Bringing It Home
Finally, if you know you have high-potentials who will make exceptional leaders, they may not know it themselves, so don't thwart their development! Help them become more aware of their unique skills, and bring out their strengths and talents so they can accelerate their development.
What leadership behaviors do you feel are important in your high-potentials? Share in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.