Building an Ecosystem Where Talent Thrives
by Karen Bentley
In this month’s blog, I’d like to summarize an important concept critical to the effective and sustained development of leaders within organizations, prompted through my reading of Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends study. According to the study, “In 2016, 89 percent of companies see leadership as an important or very important issue (up from 87 percent in 2015), and 57 percent cite leadership as very important (up from 50 percent).” And, “Twenty-eight percent of respondents reported weak or very weak leadership pipelines.”
Leadership development is a $31 billion industry in the United States. So why do almost 30% of organizations indicate they have weak or very weak leadership pipelines? In their January 23, 2017 article entitled “Better Pond. Bigger Fish”, Andrea Derler, Anthony Abbatiello, and Stacia Garr note the critical importance of supporting future leaders with the right workplace context – one that encourages “knowledge-sharing, risk-taking, and growth”. Formal leadership development programs focusing on practical, interactive, content-rich workshops, along with coaching to “hard-wire” leadership capabilities are an integral component of an overall organizational strategy for leadership development. However, providing a work environment that fosters continuous growth and development – free of distractions that divert from that objective – is a critical partner in developing a leadership pipeline necessary in today’s rapidly changing workplace.
So the question becomes, “what are the practices our organization can undertake to create the best context within which our leaders can grow and develop?” According to the authors, among 111 practices revealed through their survey, a dozen practices demonstrated a strong correlation to business and leadership outcomes. Five of them shared a common theme: “Leaders tend to learn best with other leaders and from other leaders—inside or outside of their organization.”
Asking and defining what successful leadership looks like; fostering a climate of exploration and experimentation; encouraging knowledge-sharing as a tool for leadership development; exposing leaders to other leaders, new contexts, and novel challenges; and, understanding the importance of a strong tie between Human Resources and business leaders serve as conduits for socializing leadership development into the workplace. Organizations that operate at this maturity level, according to the author’s survey, had 37 percent higher revenue per employee and 9 percent higher gross profit margin relative to companies that relied solely on leadership programs to grow leaders.
Formal leadership development programs, including coaching, absolutely have their place in developing the next generation of senior leaders. However, individual skills and actions coupled with strong social skills and connections result in capable leaders poised to meet the challenges of the new workplace ecosystem while delivering stronger business outcomes.