Nigel McPolin
Founder, etimes2 ltd

Talent management is the key ‘front of mind’ topic for practically every senior management team and every HR team in almost every organisation.  Everybody desperately wants to identify and develop future leaders to ensure the long-term success of their organisation.  There definitely is a war for talent out there!

Do a google search for ‘identify future leaders’ and we get a lot of the same information about how we should recruit, focus on potential, rotate your high potentials through jobs across your organisation etc.  These are all good…..but, you have seen them before.

There is a school of thought suggesting that the type of leaders we are talking about here are in short supply.  If this is true, then  there is a need to look for leaders among your current workforce and develop them.

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Research enables you to accurately identify future leaders

The first thing you must do is identify what you need from future leaders.  Examine the environment they are likely to be working in and the probable features of your workplace 5 or 10 years from now.  Look at research relating to your industry as well as the general information available about future leaders. Talk to industry thought leaders and colleagues.

This will tell you a lot about what you will need from your future leaders.  Use this information to identify high potentials, i.e. your future leaders.

Learn from (but don’t get distracted by) the past – because you want to identify future leaders!

The past will teach you a lot.  We should never ignore it.  However, too often we look back at what worked before and look for the same skills expecting them to work in the future.  As in No 1 above, however, the workplace changes as do people.

I am not a big believer in the ‘millennial generation needs something totally different’ movement.  I believe that the many suggestions out there for engaging millennials will actually work for most people, regardless of generation.

free engaging leadership development activities

However, I do believe that this millennial movement has taught us an important lesson.  It has highlighted that people want more from their jobs, their managers and employers.  It isn’t all about the salary for most people.  Your future leaders will want something from you – they will want developed for the future role, not the past.  And they will know the difference.

Immerse your high potentials in ‘future leaders’ thinking

Avoid the temptation and pressure to roll out the same old leadership development training that your organisation has used in the past.

Anyone involved in developing your future leaders must be creative and innovative in how they design, deliver and evaluate your Future Leadership Programme.  They must be challenged to come up with the goods.  If you are investing in developing future leaders, you must realise that your high potentials will face a daily challenge to embed and sustain future oriented behaviours in the current workplace.  The existing culture and behaviours will challenge them to conform.  They will need support and guidance from the development plan put in place and the people delivering it.

Your future leaders will need to live and breathe the skills needed.  They can’t be expected to learn these skills, turn them off for now and then switch them on when the time comes.  It is a use it or lose it scenario.

Your high potentials must be immersed in a programme of development addressing a range of ‘future leaders’ skills such as:

  • emotional intelligence
  • employee engagement and empowerment
  • communication
  • coaching and mentoring
  • empathy
  • willingness to learn
  • resilience

Now, give your future leaders a team

engaging leadership development UK Ireland Dublin Cork BelfastChallenge your high potentials to take on a leadership role where they will need to look after and lead a team.  This can simply be leading a project team.  This will give your high potentials valuable experience and provide the opportunity to monitor, measure and adapt.

Then you need to monitor, measure and track performance across all the areas contained in your future leaders development programme.  You will learn about how your high potentials communicate, lead, react and behave outside of the training room and psychometric assessments.  Blend the knowledge you derive from both sources of information.  Fine tune your understanding of what skills your future leaders will need and adapt your talent management programme to deliver.

How are you identifying and developing your future leaders?
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