leadership development clues

Who Are Your Next Leaders? The Secret of the 3 Lists

July 18th, 2016  | 

Published in Leadership

Uncover Leadership Development Clues

Are you wondering whether your next generation of leaders has what it takes to lead people, make difficult decisions, and get things done?

This simple idea is by no means definitive, but it can provide initial clues about leadership development.

Rick Kimbrell shared the idea with his fellow CEOs in the Vistage peer advisory board I lead and of which he is a member.

Leaders Make Good Things Happen

Rick worked with his father, mother, and brother in a sanitation business they owned that was purchased in 2000 by DeLaval, Sweden’s leading producer of dairy and farming machinery. Rick worked through his earn-out, cashed in his chips, and then joined another large sanitation company where he was the top sales producer.

Delivering the performance he had promised his customers was a challenge for this company. The lack of consistent performance and lack of accountability rubbed Rick the wrong way. “Of the 30 people I was working with,” Rick once told me, “12 of them needed to go, but I didn’t have the authority to take that action.”

When Rick saw that nothing would change, he launched StartKleen in 2009. He created a new division of StartKleen two years later, and sold one of the two divisions for top dollar in 2014.

He’s recently started Preston Trail Farms and this new venture on the historic Preston Trail combines Rick’s Big Orange Pumpkin Farm with a feed and general store carrying locally raised, grown and Texas-made products.

The point is that Rick knows how to make good things happen.  And it’s what he looks for in those he hires and the leaders he develops.

The 3 Lists

At a fundamental level, Rick believes that when it comes to people, there are three types and, as a result, three lists.

  1. The people who make the list. These people think ahead, establish priorities and make good things happen. As you size up their leadership potential, you can see they not only take the initiative to make the lists of things to be accomplished, they also inspire others to help get those things done. They show early signs of having what it takes to accept more responsibility. In most organizations, the people who are capable of making the list—the people who truly are leaders—represent about 10% of your total employee population. They deserve to be encouraged and developed to reach their full potential.
  2. The people who work the list. These people work hard and, when given an assignment, can be counted on to get it done. Tell them to take the hill and they’ll figure out how to do it. They take pride in their work and they’re focused on meeting the expectations they’ve agreed to accomplish. The people who work the list usually represent about 70 – 80% of your total workforce. Just don’t count on them to make the list. They may become overwhelmed when asked to plan and supervise the work of others. Celebrate their strengths. They deserve to be recognized and rewarded for working the list and getting things done. They are the backbone of your organization.
  3. The people who are on the list. These people are working their own list, their own agenda. About 5 – 10 % of your employees have earned a spot on the list as a result of their uneven performance or toxic behavior. “These people,” says Rick, “should just go away.” Performance is a choice. If employees want to be treated differently, they must start acting differently. The employee who is unable or unwilling to perform has made a choice and must be prepared to accept the consequences of that decision. And it’s your job to honor their decision.

Who are people on your team who are capable of making the list?  What’s your plan to develop them into your future leaders?

You count on a lot of people in your organization to work the list day after day.  Leadership development is not a passive process. How do you celebrate, recognize and reward their achievements?

Who are the people who are holding you back? Have you made your list?  Now what?

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of organizations in a range of industries. Through his strategic planning facilitation, keynote speaking, workshops and leadership development work with peer advisory boards, Bustin helps CEOs and other key executives maximize their individual performance and, in the process, the performance of their organizations. Bustin is the author of four leadership books, including Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill).