Leadership Skill to Keep Talented Employees

In a recent survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, respondents placed talent acquisition/development at the top of the list of the primary challenges their organization is facing. Sixty-five percent of those leaders surveyed predict a major talent crisis over the next five years.

The survey results highlight the need for organizations to adopt new strategies and implement fundamental cultural changes to help address the looming talent crisis.

One effective method is to develop a coaching culture to cultivate, retain and grow existing talent.

Long-term, single-company loyalty and tenure are increasingly rare. Today’s most talented employees want (and need) an environment that supports and challenges them to grow and develop. Changing how we lead is an important part of this answer.

The days of being able to lead successfully with a top-down autocratic “edict” are gone. High performers in today’s work force simply won’t put up with it.

While changing an organization’s culture is never easy, it can be done. Success requires senior level sponsorship, significant resource deployment and organizationwide training (coaching skills are not innate).

A method to inspire, retain and develop today’s work force is introducing or expanding an organizationwide coaching culture. Coaching, by its nature, supports collaboration and continuous improvement. The focus of coaching is on changing behaviors for systemic impact on the success of the entire organization. Again, we can draw from a sports analogy — if only the defensive squad plays well (and not the offense or special teams), rarely will the team win. Likewise in organizations, the entire system has to work together to achieve its goals to be successful. Internal departments in companies are intricately interdependent on each other. Today’s cutting-edge managers understand that an effective coaching culture is ultimately determined by the collective performance of all of the parts.

Shifting an organization from a traditional “management down” culture to a collaborative, coaching culture can be difficult. Challenges often encountered include:

  • Individual personalities (i.e., defensiveness or “I only know how to ‘boss’ “).
  • Natural resistance to change (old dogs resisting new tricks).
  • Internal politics and history.
  • Lack of required senior level commitment and effective “sponsorship.”

A successful coaching culture needs to include:

  • Senior level sponsorship (those with the power to sanction change). This sponsorship will include providing clear vision, goals, objectives and expectations.
  • Effective feedback systems (measurement against benchmarks, providing accountability, acknowledgement and rewards).
  • Training programs to develop the coaching skills of internal managers and leaders.
  • An environment that rewards taking reasonable risks, including trying new behaviors and developing skills.

Remember, a shift to a coaching culture does not mean that leaders relinquish authority, responsibility or ultimate accountability. In contrast, a truly effective coaching culture is defined by (and is generally a result of) top management leadership managing through collaboration and effective coaching techniques.

Effective coaching has been identified as a core competency for today’s managers.

Today’s successful organizations understand the value and potential of this leadership style and continue to expand their own coaching programs and skills.

Senior leaders in organizations making cultural shifts can get help from a number of resources: trainings, seminars, and external professional resources. These provide expertise in managing change (including what it takes to be an effective sponsor) and proven tools to build or strengthen existing coaching skills within the organization.

I coach clients anywhere in the world via Skype.  I can help you find, keep and grow talent for your business.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com  You don’t have to do it alone.

Baby Boom Leadership Gap

Identifying and cultivating key talent, employees with high potential or “rising stars” as tomorrow’s leaders will be important to fill the management void created by retiring baby boomers. Successful companies offer development opportunities, career goal planning and resources (training, compensation, coaching, recognition, etc.) to these employees.

It’s smart business to invest in top performers and rising stars. They are typically responsible for generating a significant percentage of a company’s innovation, improvement and bottom-line results. Bill Gates once said, “Take our twenty best people away from us, and I can tell you that Microsoft would be an unimportant company.”

Today’s managers require special skills and competencies to be effective. In a recent survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, more than 97 percent of senior leaders identified the ability to collaborate as essential to future leadership success. Yet many managers lack this key skill. Only 30 percent of respondents in the same survey believed leaders in their organization are skilled in collaboration.

Why the gap? The times have changed. Employees are under pressure to do more with less and working in environments of continual change.

Effective leadership today requires more than technical skills, expertise and solid work ethics. Collaboration (versus the old-school style of authoritative management) is essential for effective management of today’s cross-functional operating groups and teams.

Top performers and employees with high potential have high expectations: They want to be heard, have influence, receive constructive feedback and be engaged in meaningful work. They are generally intolerant of what they believe to be unreasonable or ineffective company policies, processes and leadership.

Stars expect companies to support and provide opportunities for their growth and development.

“If you don’t make an effort to provide an environment in which this generation can do their best, they’re going to find one where they can,” said Dan Black, Ernst & Young’s director of campus recruitment.

Companies concerned about creating that environment need a talent management program to identify, support and develop their current and rising stars. Most talent management programs include the following steps:

  • Defining the core business and/or position competencies that are required to meet current and future business objectives. These typically include (but are not limited to):

Emotional intelligence. People who can handle stress and conflict well, understand their impact (self-awareness), manage their emotional reactivity and have strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Leadership/team skills. The ability to collaborate, motivate and inspire others to achieve their potential while setting clear direction.

The “right stuff” or drive for excellence. Those who do their best every day. It’s about attitude — and, by the way, you can’t train a good attitude or initiative.

Adaptability. Being open to new ideas and change.

Vision. Being able to “see beyond the edge of the desk.” People with vision can effectively challenge and inspire others with “what could be” rather than accepting that “it’s always been done this way.”

Results-focused and innovative. These employees don’t get stuck in the muck of problems. They can find their way around obstacles and have excellent problem-solving skills and sound judgment.

  • Identifying employees who have both competencies and potential for future leadership positions.

Assessments and software programs are available to help evaluate employees’ suitability and skills for particular positions. Internal programs also can identify consistent or exceptional performers, and performance reviews can effectively measure core competencies.

  • Designing and executing programs to address career and employee development plans. Elements often include advanced education, skill and technical trainin, mentoring, and leadership development training and coaching.

Most senior managers recognize that new skills are required for leadership success in today’s workplaces. Investing in high potential and talented employees has never been more important. The best programs offer new job challenges and opportunities and actively involve employees in the creation of their own career plan.

The wisest business investment you can make is in yourself and your people’s leadership development.  I can help you identify, grow and develop your leaders. Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com