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How to build a pipeline of leaders

Fit for the FutureThis week I hosted a seminar for Third Sector CEOs on getting their top teams “fit for the future”. We heard a wealth of examples of how people had built higher functioning teams at Executive and Board levels, but one area seemed a consistent struggle: getting enough great people coming through the management layers; working together, leading teams, driving delivery and challenging the Executives to step up their game.

It’s not a situation that’s unique to Charities; it’s a big issue in the public sector and it’s pretty common in the private sector too. But I’ve seen plenty of examples of companies who’ve got it nailed by becoming really good at these five key processes. Here’s what they do:

Recruiting: They hold out for recruits that not only have the capability and desire to do the job, and will fit well into the organisation’s culture; but who also will soon be ready for the job above, and they have no qualms about paying for interims to cover posts while they search.

Developing: Few people stay in the same role more than two years; secondments to projects and between departments are commonplace. It’s an explicit goal to stretch and challenge people, and to develop highly skilled General Managers ready to take broader leadership roles.

Managing: Everyone is clear whether they’re struggling, developing well, or ready for their next move. And for those that are struggling there’s a clear plan to help them turn around, and there’s a clear way to decide if they need to move out. More on that here.

Retaining: The leadership understands what really drives retention, so ensures that everyone has the right tools to do the job, gets to use all their skills, makes friends in the organisation, and stays highly motivated (the four drivers of motivation are explained here).

Exiting: They move, or remove, poor performers quickly and with integrity, recognising that if you don’t take out those people who aren’t great at their jobs, the ones that are great will soon leave in frustration.

Bottom Line: While a good HR team can help get these processes set up, creating a pipeline of talent is no more the job of HR than creating a pipeline of sales is the job of Finance. Developing talent is a critical part of the job for every leader and manager in the organisation, which means it probably starts with you.

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