September 2nd, 2014 |
What’s your process for identifying your next generation of leaders?
More specifically, how do you determine who among your rising stars has what it takes to make the difficult decisions awaiting them as their responsibility within your organization grows?
If you believe your process for gaining insights into your stars can improve, learn how one successful company does it.
Separating Pretenders from Contenders
When the sanitation business owned by Rick Kimbrell’s family was purchased in 2000 by DeLaval, Sweden’s leading producer of dairy and farming machinery, Rick quickly was identified as an up-and-comer. He was among 24 junior executives selected from more than 24,000 employees worldwide who were invited to Stockholm for interviews, testing and profiling.
Rick is a member of one of my Vistage advisory boards and he shared the process DeLaval used with its most promising executives to gain insight into their ability to think and act like a leader:
Most small- and mid-sized companies don’t have the time, money and energy to devote a full week to testing their rising stars – apart from the daily tests these high-performers get on the job.
But the Day 3 exercise is one component of DeLaval’s process that any company of any size can adapt for use with its most promising stars as well as applicants for senior-level positions.
In our firm, for example, we invited the strongest applicants to provide their perspective on three scenarios our firm had addressed for our clients. The applicants were taken to an empty office with no phone and no Internet connection and given two hours to complete the exercise.
This approach separated the pretenders from the contenders.
Learning from Deming
The DeLaval process is one W. Edwards Deming would applaud.
Deming, of course, is the statistician, engineer and management consultant who helped Japan leap-frog America in quality after World War II. Deming pioneered the concept of continuous improvement, and he was a champion of systems and process. “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process,” said Deming, “you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Deming’s process for any leader seeking to make effective use of their time is consistent with the Day 3 exercise Rick Kimbrell and others tackled. Deming believed leaders should organize their in-box in the following manner:
Rick Kimbrell traveled to Stockholm with another rising star, and after Day 3, Rick and his colleague were comparing notes.
Rick’s colleague was unable to make it through the in-box while Rick worked to the bottom then had time to review several key decisions before the exercise was halted.
“Gosh,” said Rick’s colleague, “there were a lot of financials with a variety of accounting issues that needed to be addressed. It took me most of the morning to work through those. How did you do it?”
“Simple,” replied Rick, “I delegated it.”
The ability to understand what only you can do and what others can do for you is one of the qualities that separates great leaders from great managers.
Are you doing the work of your managers?
To dive even deeper into the topic of accountability, I invite you to purchase a copy of my bestselling book, “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture.”
Business schools teach case studies. Hollywood blockbusters are inspired by true events.
Exceptional leaders are students of history. Decision-making comes with the territory.