Tapping the talent pool of high potential leaders: Creating a road map for success

21 Feb 2013

Talent pool

Next generation leaders will face a more complex range of challenges and must develop capacity to lead responsibly.

There are many new challenges that leaders must adapt to in order to guide through unchartered waters. Individuals and organisations are now faced with the challenges of continuous adaptation and both parties need to demonstrate tremendous entrepreneurial spirit to master the challenge of delivering in a context of continuous change. Strong, agile, strategic leadership is critical to adaptive success.

In this pressure cooker environment leaders can sometimes be tempted to focus solely on solving functional problems and delivering short term success. In contrast, strategic leadership is about critical strategy execution that focuses on organisational learning, business and results for both now and the long term. This ‘balcony view’ helps leaders recognise the importance of the relationship between the organisation and the environment which so often generates the complexities that exist in organisational life.

In challenging times strategic leaders know that longer term success requires resources to be focused in the right place, must be able to be rapidly deployed and that strategic leadership capability is imperative in positioning the organisation for the future along with delivering on the challenges of today. They also recognise that the organisation’s performance in delivering on sustainable improvement will require considered cultivation of its future leaders. Strategic succession management and leadership development is an important contributor to sustainable organisational success.

This perspective requires the ability to balance delivery on immediate results, through competent leaders and managers with concurrent investment in developing high potential leaders; staff who through their work in the organisation have acquired the broad range of skills necessary to succeed in more senior roles. These emerging leaders understand and have contributed to operational success. What they now need is the opportunity to further develop the core strategic leadership skills of thinking, acting and influencing.

Strategic succession management requires a ‘talent development mindset’ and ‘talent management’ embedded as part of your organisation’s culture, combining performance review, succession planning and formal leadership development.

If you want to prepare your up and coming talent and ultimately your organisation for success, consider the following pointers that can help you build your leadership pipeline.

Using your longer term strategic priorities as a reference point;

Be explicit about your approach when you create a talent pool and pipeline for advancement. You create a stronger leadership culture when you openly tell managers where they stand on the performance and potential ladder, and what they need to do to advance.

Identify the range of skills your future leaders need to successfully execute your plans and align your leadership programs with the organisation’s strategic requirements. Think about how they can learn from successful internal and external leaders. Involve your existing executive team and consider balancing in-service training programs and mentoring with external programs as a means of exposing talent to systems thinking and doing across organisations.

Determine which roles are critical to your organisation’s future success and develop a talent pool and pipeline of ‘potentials’ that can step into those roles. Enhance the potentials’ leadership skills through formal learning and development and by assigning them challenging projects that add strategic value, all while in their current role.

Remember to monitor and evaluate the performance of incumbents of key roles to determine their potential for advancement. It is critical that you are able to differentiate between strong and weaker performers. Integrate leadership development with other human resources processes. Having measurable performance criteria (KPIs) and a rigorous process of review against these key criteria at least annually or better at six monthly intervals is important. This will allow you to be flexible and make the necessary adjustment to your training investment and approach.

Leadership and talent development is a dynamic process that takes time. Organisational context and circumstances change over time; therefore it is important to be flexible and clear about whether the right people are moving at the right pace, into the right jobs at the right time. Regular review through strategic planning and individual performance processes helps you see where the pool of talent is too shallow and when the number of attractive jobs is too limited to retain your highest-potential managers. With this data you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

A clear link has been established between the strategy of an organisation and the strategy of leadership development. Longer term organisational success requires the right strategic leadership skills at all levels. Successful organisations closely examine which talent programs are needed and which interventions are necessary to realise their strategic priorities over the longer term. Be selective in your investment in leadership and look for approaches that afford you tailor made options to suit your strategy and deliver you a tangible return on investment (ROI).

Developing your leadership talent pool and pipeline is a smart investment in your organisations future.