Keeping Future Leaders Where They’ll Do Most Good – Inside the Company

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Jan 29, 2013

Last week,  I discussed how to identify current and future leaders inside your company.

The tactics include observing colleague interactions and basic skill testing (but I encourage you to read the details if you haven’t yet.) Now that you’ve identified some potential leaders inside your organization, it’s time to put them through their paces.

The best leaders have been through a baptism by fire: refining their character, work ethic, and practical skills. You’re going to provide that experience — but in a nice way.

Bigger projects, more responsibility

Once they’ve proven themselves on tasks, move to a larger project. More moving pieces means more chances for your developing leader to prove how well they can keep everything together while producing great results.

Positive feedback is critical in bolstering the confidence level of a potential leader. Take your time to be honest and helpful: recognize the way you work with your potential leader is how they will eventually work with their own star employees.

Mentoring through failures

We’ve all had setbacks and failures. Leaders analyze those experiences, their complicity in the failure, and determine to do better.

While a natural leader may work through the steps of failure intuitively, you can mentor a potential leader through the same steps. Your responsibility is to help navigate a future leader through the disappointment, offering your perspective and constructive feedback, and asking them to perform a post mortem on the failure. Punitive measures are rarely necessary, and if they are, a humble response from a potential leader will tell you volumes.

Regular recognition is critically important

My biggest challenge after I’ve identified a leader is not being able to keep them within the company. The best leaders will eventually turn and leave if they lack interesting opportunities and are not adequately recognized nor appreciated for their contributions. You are responsible for providing as many challenges as possible, and even more importantly, for recognizing your potential leader’s efforts.

Regular recognition bolsters an emerging leader’s confidence and marks them as important to the company. Employees who are encouraged to develop leadership skills are more likely to stay. Other employees who witness their co-workers being appreciated, know their efforts will not go unrecognized.

Make it a priority to use daily, weekly, or quarterly meetings to call attention to your leadership stars. Communicate to other employees the qualities that made your honored employee into a leader.

By sharing the reasons for recognition, other employees have the chance to deliver on the qualities you value most in your culture.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

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