Most business executives focus their leadership efforts on the strategic side of growth, including market expansion, brand credibility, and contract negotiation. But many are overlooking some very important pieces of the growth puzzle—their people.
Successful business transformation requires several things: new processes, leaders with the ability to direct others, and a ready-to-play “bench” of capable professionals. During a season of transformational change, it is critical to have skilled people on board who can work synergistically to fulfill the vision and goals of your company.
Populating the bench
Planning for growth requires identifying talent that will be ready to shoulder more responsibility and propel others through the upcoming changes. Leaders must keenly observe their employees, conduct disciplined evaluations, and be able to envision the future potential of an individual. They must be tuned-in to identifying character traits such as dependability, resilience and work ethic. Then, assumptions must be tested so that evaluations are fair.
Evolving into a capability-minded culture that demonstrates flexibility to change often involves sophisticated diagnostic tools and processes. Beyond that, leaders can contribute to this objective by having a capability-ready mindset. These fundamental steps will get you started:
- Identify sources of measurement, such as assessments or skills tests, that can gauge capability in the context of a specific job, the current culture, and the future work environment. Look for underutilized skills that can be leveraged for future assignments. For example, a manager’s problem-solving capability can evolve from moderate to complex if he is given enough experience and coaching.
- Call out specific behaviors that you notice in your employees, such as business acumen, the ability to collaborate with others, or courage in the face of great risk. Recognizing these attributes creates focus for the individual. If they know which strengths are valued, they will be more open to being coached in underperforming areas as well.
- Provide employees with clear and compelling feedback, whether it is corrective or affirmative. Statements should reference attributes that you’ve noticed and show how they were applied.
- Help individuals link their current roles to the company’s future mission and vision. There is nothing more intrinsically powerful than having a sense of purpose.
As a talent management professional, I have had hundreds of conversations about capability with individuals, team leaders and senior management. I have had the privilege of recognizing top talent, calling it out, and discussing its power in both current work assignments and in the scope of future career moves. People commonly say to me, “This was the most constructive conversation I have ever had.” In contrast, the dialogues they typically have with their supervisors are all about the business at hand rather than the person’s demonstrated competencies.
Leaders, I challenge you to become proficient at identifying and ‘calling out’ capability within your workforce. Find the right tools to help you and make it a daily habit. This will nurture your workforce, create loyalty, enhance job clarity and energize workers to reach greater levels of achievement.
Take the time now to identify, nurture and develop key attributes and the people who display them, so that your bench is loaded with vetted talent. Practice this at every level of your organization and watch your culture transform.