There is no doubt that applied knowledge and targeted experience is one of the keys to success. When employees gain the knowledge and experience they need for higher level roles before they get into the position, they are better positioned to lead into the future. Giving employees early leadership experiences and opportunities ensures the sustainability and future success of your business. How can you prepare your leaders for more responsibility?
- Let them learn on the job. This means allowing them to make mistakes, recover and learn from them. It means expecting them to address issues directly and come up with creative, effective solutions. This helps them learn to think like an executive.
- Give them “fix-it” or “turnaround” jobs. A stretch assignment will force them to problem solve, communicate across organizational boundaries, overcome obstacles and build effective relationships. They will learn to become more persuasive, tough, and influential.
- Have them build something from scratch – start up a new project, build a new team. This will teach them resourcefulness, initiative, and tap into their creativity. If it’s a part of their current role, they will have to learn how to prioritize what is most important.
- Encourage ‘a day in the life’ where you have your leaders switch positions with a colleague in a very different role. Encourage them to go deeper in the organization to see firsthand the challenges your team faces with ineffective systems, poor hand-offs, difficult people, dysfunctional communications, etc.. This exercise will expose them to your business in a very different way.
- Expose them to the financials so they understand how you make money, what are your most profitable products, who are your most profitable customers, where do you have losses. Help them understand the impact of decisions on the bottom line.
Giving employees and potential successors these kinds of experiences long before they need to step into an ownership or management position is an invaluable way to groom a successor. Giving up control can be difficult, but their transition to effective leadership will be much smoother with these kinds of experiences.