Dec 17 2019| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
There has been a running theme throughout much of our work over recent months - finding and developing future leaders. Variously called “succession planning”, “mobilising a talent pipeline” or “changing the way we do things around here”, the underlying problem to tackle is the same: what are the leadership skills needed to take our business into the future and where can I find them?
Whilst not an exclusive Channel Island problem, the issue is more acute in the islands, which have a tighter labour market and hurdles to entry (attractions notwithstanding) than many other places. Plus, the Channel Islands are in competition with other markets for experienced talent and that increases the pressures our current leaders face.
Here are some of the issues - and potential solutions - that we observe through our client work:
1) Successful leadership will be much more emotionally intelligent
With thanks to excellent people, thinkers and influencers like Simon Sinek, Daniel Pink, Mark Crowley and many more, emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly recognised as crucial for leadership success. Leading yourself well - understanding personal strengths and blindspots, and a desire to constantly improve in personal impact - is the beginning of leading others. Within the British Army (British Army EI Symposium), non-profit organisations and businesses, we are seeing - and encouraging - a demand for emotionally intelligent leaders.
There are many behaviours that we observe in leaders with high emotional intelligence; these include:
- Having a keen awareness of their likely impact in a given scenario ahead of time and preparing/adapting accordingly.
- Frequently seeking other people’s perspectives with the aim of constantly improving. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that they can’t hold their own mirror up to themselves; they need other people to reflect back what’s true.
- Engaging, motivating and inspiring team members in ways that respect individual team styles and mindsets. Emotionally intelligent leaders do not assume that everyone should be like them.
- Genuinely listening; they pay proper attention when listening, listen to learn and not to defend and prefer to wait for an appropriate period in order to hear an important perspective before charging ahead.
Traditional career development paths are inadequate, focusing heavily on understanding the particular company and gaining technical or professional qualifications. The most successful businesses will be those that emphasise emotional intelligence in their people-development pathways. This creates opportunities for multiple career pathways, enabling the go-to technical experts to be promoted to senior roles without necessarily being expected to lead or manage people. Equally, great “people” people can and should be elevated to team leadership roles, even if they are not technical specialists in their field.
Are your career development processes in need of a review? We would be pleased to help you.
2) Future leaders communicate the truth - and quickly
The democratisation and digitisation of information has resulted in an exponential increase in the speed at which information travels. Future leaders understand how to harness fast communication, responding rapidly to problems, mistakes, opportunities and news.
Smarter leaders recognise that fake news is ultimately - and often quickly - counterproductive. It is just as easy to fact-check a story as it is to start one.
Adopting a defensive communication approach with customers will be quickly punished. The future belongs to leaders who communicate clearly, quickly and honestly, especially when there are problems with their product or business.
The most successful business cultures will, therefore, be those that pursue openness, vulnerability and transparency. These are qualities that require courage - the courage of conviction, the courage to do the right thing (not necessarily the easiest) and the courage to confront hard issues.
Many of our clients value our ability to enable courageous conversations, overcoming natural resistance and getting into more open and honest habits. Shifting behaviours and practices in this direction creates attractive conditions for future leaders.
3) Talent development must be whole-person orientated
The leadership team of a large organisation recently reflected back to us that they’ve been very good at providing technical training for their people, but have invested little in personal development.
This, in turn, has created a leadership gap, with many bright people busily doing what they’re told, but very few challenging conventional thinking, creating new ideas or taking initiative in the business.
The emerging workforce is seeking an integrated life, where all aspects of life work together to harness their unique talents, style and skills. This is something that we encourage. For example, if someone is a strong communicator in the workplace, they will communicate well in all aspects of their life. Workplace development therefore needs to orientate to the whole person, not only a technical speciality. This can include enhancing personal confidence, assertiveness, presence, impact, creativity, curiosity, communication and much more. Connecting these skills with the needs of the business sets a strong basis for highly engaging work.
Our expertise in utilising insight from psychometric surveys sets a clear and firm basis for personal development, with powerful advantages not only for the individuals but for the companies that benefit from their time and energy. Our clients value the insight and clear focus on the most critical areas for their personal development.
4) Broader perspectives
Finding future leadership talent takes a fresh and broader perspective. “Classic” leadership styles are no longer serving businesses well, especially those that are more command/control, domineering and power-positioning in style. Your future leaders might therefore already be within your organisation, are you missing their true potential?
Some points to consider:
Extending this to other stakeholders can add further value to the talent pipeline. Enabling up-and-coming talented people to spend time with a valued supplier, customer or other similar stakeholder will not only increase creativity but open doors to new talent. These are people who will already know, and hopefully enjoy, your business; if they’re not able to bring their best within their existing environment (with your supplier/customer), there can be mutual benefits in opening a door to your own organisation if that will enable them to flourish.
In our work, we are exploring how to connect leaders with other leaders in different fields to learn, understand different perspectives, establish mutually beneficial connections and share ideas. If this sounds interesting to you, we’d be delighted to talk with you!
Summary: Develop your own talent; be more creative when reaching out for talent
Where can you find your future leaders? Happily, some are already with you. Spend more time looking more broadly for them. Create new pathways to promotion. Invest consistently in personal development, enhancing emotional intelligence across the board. Others are outside of your business but perhaps closer than you think, potentially with key suppliers and customers. Opening doors that enable the exchange of good people who can stretch to become great leaders by moving between key stakeholders will provide mutual benefits.
We are excited by the potential to help create new ways of identifying and developing future leadership talent. Contact us today to find out how we can work with your business.