The first time I heard my name and word ‘leader’ used in the same sentence, I felt I had arrived. I managed a small team and could now delegate tasks! About a month later, my manager put forth the proverbial question in our one-on-one – “Rajeev, what happens if you get hit by a truck”? These days such a question may hurt a few feelings, but this question led my manager and I to discuss a leadership pipeline. It was then that I realized, I had grown to be a leader because I was in a leadership pipeline myself; being coached, mentored and observed, often transparently.
Over the course of next few years, I became actively involved in management and leadership development; working closely with HR and my senior management teams. As I learned more and developed myself, I also experimented with various ideas and techniques for leadership development. In this blog, I’d like to share the ideas which produced the best results for me.
Don’t focus solely on A+ players: There is no doubt that A+ players are a ‘must have’ in any leadership pipeline, but it is also a misnomer that only A+ players can be leaders. The definition of A+ players may vary slightly in each organization, but their key trait is that of being a driver. A+ players are usually ambitious (hungry) for growth and will do whatever-it-takes to grow their career.
With all the pomp-and-glory of A+ players, what often gets missed is the team of silent performers behind them; the candidates who focus on the work assigned to them, and doing a quality job completing it. They are usually the reason an A+ player is able to deliver the high-risk project but may never stake a claim to the fame themselves.
When working on a leadership pipeline, it’s important to create a healthy mix of A+ players and silent performers. Rotate people in and out of the pipeline on periodic basis (~2 years or less) based on factors of individual performance and your observation of them.
Create an opportunity pipeline: Most of the time, leadership pipeline programs fail because you may be readying the leaders, but have no positions ready to absorb them. This frustrates the A+ candidates and tends to make a mockery of the program. The valued players, once ready, will look for jobs elsewhere unless you have a ready landing-place for the now-hungry-for-opportunity leaders. While you are preparing your leadership pipeline, in parallel you must also create an opportunity pipeline for these talented new leaders, or your hard-work, mentoring and dedication will not have a chance to bear fruit.
This does not mean these new leaders automatically slide into new roles or positions. The positions will be made available to them, but they will still need to go through the internal hiring process. This adds extra rigor to the leadership pipeline process and also establishes its credibility within the organization.
Stay connected to the pipeline: One of the primary mistake leaders make is that they leave the process of creating and managing the leadership pipeline to HR or others within the organization. They themselves get involved as occasional guest-speakers who come in and give a pep-talk and then disappear. This alienates you as the leader from your pipeline and opens the door to dirty politics within the pipeline.
One way to stay connected to the pipeline candidates and get insight into each person’s strength and weaknesses is by creating coaching or mentoring circles.
|About the author: Rajeev Nanda is a hi-tech industry veteran with experience in multifarious roles. During his career he has created, developed and managed cross-functional and cross-geo organizations of various sizes. During his tenure with Intel, he was actively involved in management and leadership development. You can read more about Rajeev on his website – http://rnanda.com|