12 Best Practices in Executive Development

From Jim Bolt, Executive Development Associates:

The following is a list of common “best practices” used by companies to develop executives and leaders. Use it as a way to evaluate your own company’s practice and develop an action plan to improve.

1. Linked to Strategy: Our executive development efforts are directly linked to our organization’s strategy. It’s clear how these efforts help address our marketplace challenges and/or achieve our strategic objectives.

2. Top Management Driven: Our top executives champion our executive development efforts. We have a senior, line executive advisory board. Our top executives attend the programs as participants and also teach when appropriate.

3. Strategy & System: We have a strategy and long-term plan for executive development. Our programs and practices are part of a continuous system and process rather than stand-alone, ad hoc events.

4. Thorough Front-End Analysis: No significant executive development effort is begun without a thorough front-end or needs analysis.

5. Custom Designed: We custom-design our programs so they address our unique, company-specific challenges and opportunities, and help create and/or drive our vision, values and strategies.

6. Leadership Profile, Feedback and Individual Development Plans: We use a custom-designed [linked to our vision, values, and strategies], multi-rater leadership instrument/inventory to provide confidential development feedback to our executives. Our executives have individual development plans based on that feedback.

7. Top-Down Implementation: Whenever our executive and leadership development efforts are aimed at organizational change, our top management attends the programs first as participants. Then the programs are cascaded down throughout the organization.

8. Action-Oriented Learning: Our executive learning experiences are action oriented. Whenever feasible, we use some form of “action learning” where participants apply what they are learning to real, current business problems and opportunities.

9. Succession Management: We have an effective succession management system that ensures we have the right executive, in the right job, at the right time. We seldom are forced to hire from outside the organization to fill a key executive job opening as a result of not having a qualified internal candidate prepared.

10. Integrated Talent Management System: We have a well integrated talent management system (succession management, external and internal executive education, on-the-job development, coaching/mentoring, etc.) rather than independent stand-alone processes.

11. Measurement: We set clear, measurable objectives when we create new executive development strategies, systems, processes, and programs. Then we measure the business impact using metrics that matter to senior management, and communicate the results effectively.

12. High Potential Identification and Development: Our organization has an effective process for identifying “high potential” talent and accelerating their development.