Build a Leadership Pipeline With the Right Development Mix
Learning and development has faced the same dilemma for a long time—balancing between developing leaders for a current role while also preparing leaders for their next role.
Naturally, our time and attention get divided between in-place development—helping an employee excel in their current role—and next-place development—guiding them toward what’s coming in their next role. Is there a recipe for the perfect mix?
Ensure you Recognize Development Options for Both Current and Future Leader-Roles
In the past, many leaders were only promoted into the next role when we felt they were fully ready.
In today’s complex and rapidly changing environment, it is likely that no leader will ever be fully prepared for a new role. With today’s changing business demands, only promoting leaders who are fully ready can stunt their growth potential and not leave room for other emerging leaders. Consider whether the best time to promote a leader isn’t when they are fully ready, but for us to recognize when they are are poised enough be able to learn on the job, while still being able to be effective and have an impact.
Depending on the organization, exactly how your development mix breaks down between in-place and next-place will vary. While preparing leaders for future roles is critical to building or sustaining a strong bench of successors, you also need people contributing to the business needs of today. Luckily, there is certainly some overlap between in-place and next-place development strategies. Let's take a look at some common strategies you can deploy below.
Common in-place development often includes:
- Intensive leader development programs that include mentoring, coaching, and action-learning experiences
- 360-degree assessments to identify current leadership improvement areas
- Professional or industry association involvement
- Leading a key functional project
However, finding opportunities for leaders to practice in-place skills will not be effective unless organizations also innovate program design and delivery methods to ensure that skills learned are reinforced in their day-to-day environments. The key is to think about personalized experiences instead of events and to provide reinforcement that:
- Helps leaders understand WHY achieving the desired skill or behavior change is important to them
- Reinforces HOW leaders can master their new knowledge and skills
- Allows leaders to practice WHAT to apply and WHEN to apply it
Next-place development options often include:
- Executive education programs and advanced degree programs (e.g., MBA)
- Cross-functional, cross-business, or international assignments
- Coaching focused specifically on identified future development needs
- Leading a major organizational initiative or full-time strategic project assignment
- Executive mentoring
- Volunteer leadership/board role in an industry or professional association
In the end, developing employees for both now and the future benefits the employees and the organization. With a strong pipeline of ready-and-able leaders, the organization will thrive.