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How to coach & create leaders at every level?

One of my new clients is a company that is growing fast, with lots of new managers lacking previous leadership experience. What do successful organizations do to coach & create opportunities for leaders at every level?


  • Diana, fantastic question here.

    A colleague of mine in the past was lucky enough to have been at a company that had a dedicated leadership development program for employees early in their management careers.

    She was paired with a managing mentor in the company to help her navigate through difficult conversations with direct reports, and to create action plans for her reports. Quarterly, she attended a 3-4 hour leadership training that emphasized skills and ability development that fed directly into the objectives served by the management mentor, through the lens of the company's values.

    It was impressive how fast she developed in to an effective manager and aligned the management objectives to the overall direction of the company.

  • I believe this is a common scenario of today. Companies are growing quickly and in the era of go-go-go its hard to find the time and space to learn before we have to do.

    I think @Mark Reinke recommendation about a mentor is spot on. The other type of mentor is books! (Radical Candor, Leaders Eat Last, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) If you aren't a big reader, you can listen to audible and if that's too much as well there are podcasts (Elevate) and even an app called Blinkist which summarizes books for you in 15 minutes!

    There is some much that you can learn from speaking with others and trial and error. I think the key is asking for feedback and then acting on it.

  • Two tools I have used with direct reports and future identified leaders include Career Planning Contracts and Personal Inventories.

    CPCs are an exercise where employees 1. assess "where they want to be" in 5 years, 2. gaps in skills and experience and what year they will close in on or close them, 3. Define specifically what their supervisor and/or mentor can do to help them. A great discussion tool to align to expectations and set a coaching plan.

    PIs are a simple 4-block identifying 1. what the employee's top skills (no more than seven), 2. for each skill, how demonstrated, 3. top areas where improvement is needed (no more than three) 4. for each area of improvement, what if anything the employee will do to improve. The PI is not required for the employ to share, or even demonstrate they completed the exercise. A test of your ability to inspire improvements in performance will be confirmed IF you have gained enough trust in your relationship for the employee to voluntarily share that document.

    I update mine annually and document the outcomes.

  • I have worked in companies that have had internal mentors, and I think this is a very strong initiative. The issues I have seen are that companies and mentors get pulled in different directions and sometimes the mentoring connections wane. I do see that companies are also leveraging corporate coaches more often, and I think this is also a strong business initiative. External coaches are dedicated to the growth and development of managers.

  • Diana - great question and one I have lived with for the past two years as our company has seen a 200% growth rate. While I agree with the previous responses about mentoring - that may not be available in a fast growing company b/c it requires time and relationships - mentoring can't be fast tracked.

    We decided to handle this situation by creating a monthly managers forum where we could discuss the knowledge, skills, and capabilities that are needed to be a successful manager. We presented content every month that struck at the core of manager issues -- change management, building trust, psychological safety, mindset, accountability, etc. and then used the content as a launching point for discussion and group coaching. We also offered our managers 1:1 coaching if they needed.

    A couple of books we have used - Patrick Lencioni's Ideal Team Player and 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Both excellent in helping managers understand the core of creating a strong team that performs up to its potential. Drive by Daniel Pink helped us all reorient away from sticks/carrots and toward motivation and engagement.

    If you don't have anyone internally that can develop and deliver this content - then I would highly recommend partnering with an organization that can bring this to you. A couple of ideas off the top of my head are Korn Ferry, Gartner, and Skillpath.

    Good luck!

  • Great suggestions by @Nibal Henderson. Here's a little secret that not many people know. Authors, who are in book launch mode, are often willing to present at organizations in exchange for buying a certain number of books. I did this for clients when I launched my book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around and intend to do this with my new book, Evergreen Talent.

  • Creating organizational leaders is one of my favorite topics to write about, so thanks for asking this question @Diana Mask!

    Every leader goes through an arc which @Michael Alexander's response gets at. It involves identifying that gap between the ideal and real self, identifying the leadership strengths and gaps, then defining the journey to close that gap. Where a coach or mentor is really helpful is in the last two stages of this arc: experimenting and practicing.

    Very important: your developing leaders need to be in a culture where they can make mistakes and know their manager has their back. Of course, there are some boundaries past which "no one shall return", but barring those mistakes, a leader needs to trust their manager will support them when they take a wrong turn.

    Experimenting is all about finding their own language, style, or tone for a skill that a mentor or trainer is trying to get your new leaders to learn. They WILL make mistakes as they try out different styles and ways of trying on a new behavior or communication.

    Once they've 'found their sea legs' so to speak, they can begin practicing the way that works to solidify the learning.

    One way I've found to ensure this part of the process works without undue risk to business outcomes is to choose a thematic lens like conflict resolution, transparency, empathy, etc. that your aspiring leaders can focus on for 2-3 weeks. And then switch to another theme for another 2-3 weeks.

    To start this time period, you can start by having a discussion about one of those aptitudes (with the group to leverage your time, or individually). Then your team will notice more scenarios related to the theme cropping up, because they will be watching out for opportunities to grow and learn through that specific lens. It's like when you buy a new car, and then all you see is everyone else driving YOUR car. So annoying…or awareness-raising!

    That way you can kind of predict the situations your managers might get into and better prepare yourself to support them. Although it can happen, this method also communicates to your new managers to not take risks in areas outside the theme so you can control the amount of change or chaos them learning something new can bring.

    I could go on and on…but I hope this tidbit helps. Happy growth and development!

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