We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. -Winston Churchill
Before the rise of outsourcing of just about everything (including thinking in some companies), one of the key leadership processes of the senior team was training and developing the next level of management. Today, like many other processes, this important task has been mostly outsourced, to the human resources function and to executive education courses at prominent business schools. Is this really working?
In the current economic climate where relative predictability has been replaced with uncertainty at every turn, many up and coming managers (and some senior ones) have never had to face such difficult and chaotic business conditions. As a result, we believe the job of executive development is too critical for senior management to delegate. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in most organisations.
The next generation of leaders (General Managers and the like) are not being properly coached and developed by their senior leaders. Why? Culprits seem to be the fast pace of business and an ever increasing focus on external issues rather than internal. But suppose senior leaders wanted to take back this important role. How would it work? This is not about mentoring. This is about real-time coaching and training that is necessary for the health and success of the business.
For example, in one company the board and senior leaders saw (and sensed) the economic slow down coming, mostly because they had access to experts and outside intelligence that their GMs and VPs did not. Knowing it was impossible for them to deal with a mega-downturn through policy alone, they quickly scheduled a 2 day “Leadership Development” session, held at corporate headquarters, where the senior leaders talked to the GMs and VPs about the current and expected future state. They shared historic best practices and failure modes of businesses who in past similar situations had responded properly as well as improperly during economic crisis.
Some of the case studies showed how certain businesses increased investment in key areas, cut COGS, worked margins, and incentivized their best talent. Other cases showed companies who cut G&A, stopped investing, and quickly lost their best people and market share. The discussion that followed was both pointed, challenging and invigorating. Needless to say that company exhibits an entirely different level of readiness, engagement, positive energy and feelings of being in control of their destiny than many other companies facing a severe downturn.
Where are the case studies that GMs and young leaders can read and debate with their senior leaders? And if these case studies exist, where is the willingness of the senior team to enter into such open debates? We see the development of the next generation of leaders as one of the key leadership processes that, if properly designed and delivered, can yield significant business rewards.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. -Confuscius
Tight Lines . .
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