How do you do it? Why do you do it? Most companies only do half a job of building a leadership pool.
5 key steps are: articulate the need; spot talent; develop, then appoint, and then support them.
If any of these steps are missing or poorly done, the value of the programmes suffer. How do they go wrong? Politics for one.
The need: The ‘sell’ up front is nodded to, but not deeply believed. Yes we should manage risk, but budget is small, timeframes elastic, accountability anonymously shared or lumped on one poor graduate. Short-term wins over long-term thinking.
Spotting: who gets in? We hope the best and the brightest. We could use psychometrics (abilities and personality), external recruitment, recent business results, line manager recommendation. No method on its own is adequate, especially a nomination process – famous for pandering to ego, breeding king-makers, building loyal fiefdoms.
Development: Consider training, coaching, mentoring. I well remember a cricket off-spinner refusing to help a young star – “why would I help you take my position in First Grade?” Good in principle but internal competition can work against.
Appointment: When the rubber hits the road – unless the stars get appointed before they are ready, its not a fast track. And these appointment discussions are famous for elaborate means of protecting a power base. And if you don’t appoint, you lose them.
Support: Without transition coaching – helping them get started well, and attending to their handling of high pressure (anxiety), relationship building, political savvy, and new levels of leadership accountability, they can drown.
Attend to each step, and you can build a stable, talent-rich leadership pool.