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Nothing we do as leaders will have more impact on the future success of our organizations than developing future leaders. The caliber of individuals hired and the focus placed on their development as leaders are critical to any company’s ability to grow, innovate and compete.
Following our company’s recent transition into the Omnicom portfolio of companies, our organization is preparing for rapid growth. Our 2019 talent acquisition goals are more ambitious than ever before. Still, our company culture and standards of excellence remain priorities we are unwilling to compromise on. We cannot retain these two unique aspects of our company without simultaneously prioritizing the development of our current employee base and maintaining a high bar as we look to hire our next 100-plus professionals.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself several questions regarding current and future leaders of our firm in order to set our organization up for success.
For Current Employees
1. Am I empowering team members with appropriate autonomy and independence?
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement,” says Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He goes on to explain that “intrinsic motivation — the drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging and absorbing — is essential for high levels of creativity.”
As a leader, my desire is to foster a high-trust work environment — one that relies less on rules and more on values. In my experience, empowering employees, especially millennials, to operate with appropriate levels of autonomy leads to higher levels of employee engagement and innovation. Additionally, research shows that high-trust companies outperform the S&P 500 in financial results by a factor of three.
2. What is the most helpful feedback I can provide to help high performers grow?
Giving feedback (especially to high performers) can be challenging, but it is critical to helping them reach their full potential. “Radical candor,” a term coined by Kim Scott, is the ability to challenge directly and show you care personally at the same time. When sharing feedback with future leaders, I aim to provide real-time feedback with radical candor by sharing 100% of the information, even it if is difficult.
When giving feedback, I’ve learned it is crucial to describe behaviors rather than personal traits and to focus on development areas in the future. Focusing on mistakes can feel overly critical, but discussing how to go to the next level of performance is motivating.
3. Am I strategically investing in the right people and creating growth opportunities for future leaders?
One of the most important ways I can spend my time is by focusing on the long-term investment of people. Since the tyranny of the urgent can often cannibalize my schedule, I know I need to be intentional about prioritizing time with individuals. To ensure this type of people development actually happens, I try to set reoccurring meetings with those high-potential individuals. I’ve also learned to integrate the development of employees into my other responsibilities. For example, some of my best career coaching conversations have happened over drinks while traveling with colleagues for client work.
All great leaders have a desire to learn and achieve. In addition to providing constructive feedback and fostering a growth mindset among those leaders, I also strive to create growth opportunities and stretch roles to further develop key leaders. For example, I have a small group of high-potential people who are at the Consultant, Senior Consultant and Manager/Architect levels. I frequently meet with them, seek their counsel and give them “strategic projects”. It helps me a ton, and hopefully helps to speed their development through increased executive exposure and opportunities to work on challenging assignments.
For New Employees
While we seek to develop leaders internally, we are also looking outside to recruit top talent. As we evaluate candidates, I am continually asking myself the following questions.
1. Is this candidate humble, hungry and smart?
I tend to agree with Anthony Tjan, author of Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, who believes screening for traits like integrity, humility, gratitude and self-awareness is key to success and job satisfaction. While industry expertise and impressive resumes certainly matter, I believe character, internal drive and raw aptitudes are ultimately the most important measures of long-term success in our firm.
2. What unique thinking/skills/diversity does this individual bring to our firm?
We have always valued different perspectives. Especially when applied to collaboration on our client projects, diversity of thought helps us drive innovation for our clients. However, early in the growth of our company, we grew organically, which means many of our new employees and leaders were referrals from our existing networks. Frankly, they tended to be culture fits and largely homogeneous with our current team. As we look to the future, we’re being very strategic about hiring people who enhance our culture (not just fit it) and continue to promote a diverse and inclusive work environment. Specifically, we are actively recruiting women to join our leadership team.
3. How is this individual passionately curious?
Albert Einstein famously said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Employees with high curiosity quotients (CQ) have a natural drive that makes them stronger leaders, more self-motivated and innovative, and better problem-solvers. Individuals who are eager and willing to learn tend to operate well in the rapidly evolving digital landscape where we serve clients.
Focus On People And Values
I believe competitive advantage is best achieved by a vigilant focus on the development of future leaders. When an organization is filled with people who feel fulfilled, equipped and cared for as individuals, it becomes attractive to other high performers who share similar values. In the end, nothing matters more than people and values for long-term success.
December 13, 2018 at 07:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs