Monday, July 26, 2010

Leadership Development: Executive Self-Assessment

What’s the #1 differentiator between companies that excel at succession planning and leadership development and those that simply “go through the motions”?

It’s the ownership and commitment of the senior executive team. They believe in its strategic importance and treat it as a high priority. Without this, the typical reaction from every manager is likely to be “What’s the point? We go through the motions every year filling these forms out and nothing happens.”

It not only becomes a demoralizing administrative time-waster, but when leadership positions need to be filled, we’re frustrated with the lack of qualified candidates. Of course, there’s also the frustration of our high potentials regarding lack of feedback, coaching, development opportunities, and any meaningful interest and involvement from their managers.

The message is clear (pick one):

1. Your development is not important to me; it’s not worth the expense or time.

2. I don’t think you have the capacity to grow and change so why bother.

3. You’re a manager – suck it up- you’re on your own when it comes to development.

This lack of commitment and involvement then cascades down and throughout the organization. While there may be pockets of excellence, these overall message is pretty clear – it’s not important, just a “nice-to-do”.

However, with commitment from the top, even the most incompetent HR department couldn’t possibly screw it up. Without it, all of the best process, systems, forms, and programs will have little impact.

If you believe in the importance of getting our next generation of leaders ready to take the helm, then are you ready to take a hard look at your own level of commitment and do what it takes to really make a difference? Take the following executive self-assessment to find your opportunities to improve (or send it to your favorite senior executive).

Rating scale: 5=always, 4=usually, 3=sometimes, 2= rarely, 1=never

1. When it comes to leadership development, I “practice what I preach”. I openly discuss my development needs and actions I’m taking to improve.
According to Marshall Goldsmith: “When the senior leader acts like a little god and tells everyone else to improve, this behavior can be copied at every level of management. Every level then points out how the level below it needs to change. The end result: No one gets much better.”

2. I have regular (at least quarterly) conversations with my direct reports about their development. These discussions can include developmental feedback, coaching, or development planning… anything but “the numbers”.

3. My development discussions include both improvements in the current role as well as preparation for future roles.

4. I spend a significant amount of my time coaching, mentoring, providing feedback, and teaching high potential leaders (other than my direct reports). Note: look at your Outlook calendar over the last quarter to verify your assessment.

5. I spend time on a regular basis (at least yearly) with my leadership team assessing talent. This includes reviewing the performance and potential of our direct report managers as well as the identification of emerging high potential leaders.

6. I recognize and reward, and hold my direct reports accountable for the identification and development of high potential talent in their own organizations.

7. When I have a management opening, I’m willing to consider “unlikely” candidates from outside my organization, for the purpose of providing a cross-functional development opportunity.

8. I’m willing to let go of one of my best performers in order to prepare them for a larger leadership role.

9. I regularly have talent discussions with my peers. We take “shared ownership” for the development of leaders, rather than operate in self-serving silos.

10. When I’m traveling, I make sure to schedule time and meet with high potential talent.

11. I use consistent and valid criteria when I assess the performance and potential of my managers (and they are all aware of this criteria).

12. I take action to identify and remove underperformers that are blocking the development and movement of our high potentials.

13. I’m actively involved in company leadership development programs (sponsorship, guest speaker, panel discussions, etc….

Scoring key:
45-65: Congratulations, you’re a leadership development machine!! You’re developing leadership strength for today and for the future. You rock!

30-45: You’re doing some things well, but it’s not enough. Pick 2-3 items to improve and get to work.

0-30: Wassa matta wit you? Well, at least you care enough to take the assessment. It’s never too late to change, but you need to get started today. Read Great Leadership to learn how to get started and good luck!


Leadership Styles said...

Don’t be a part of the office gossip anymore. I know the temptation is too high but refrain from participating in such conversations. Moreover, your role now is to support everyone on the team.

Dan McCarthy said...

Styles -
??? I sure do agree, but I'm not sure what that has to do with succession planning and developing leaders. Good comment, maybe wrong post? (-:

Chris Young said...

Nice assessment Dan - I think it will be an eye open for many managers who have the courage to answer honestly!

I have included your post in my Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week ( so that my readers too may benefit from your assessment.

Be well!

Dan McCarthy said...

Chris -
Thanks, that's awesome.
You're right, when I've put it in front of an exec, it does open their eyes to what they could be doing. sometimes, that's all they need to know.