Written by: Justin D. Loyd, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Every hire by a company is an investment that can produce great results or negligible ones. The ability of a new hire to become a long-term contributor is often based on the leader development process of the organization. If done correctly, the employee's successful development becomes an asset for the organization. They ultimately help with the development of the next generation of leaders. This development does not happen by accident and instead involves a process similar to turning a piece of carbon into a diamond (Geology.com).
The pressure of the Earth's surface upon carbon, combined with time and extreme temperatures, are the basic building blocks necessary to take a mineral in the ground and transform it into a diamond. All pieces of carbon have the potential to become a diamond. Still, not all undergo the transformation or can withstand the process. Similarly, leaders should understand that not every employee will become a business leader (all people are leaders, even if they don't know it). The following are three ways to develop the diamond in your employees.
Identify potential early
Most organizations have a thirty to ninety-day onboarding process during which employees can be let go at any time. The employee is learning how the organization works, usually from a senior employee. They are scrutinized for bad habits and corrected to ensure they can be trusted to do the task properly when left alone. Most organizations, however, focus on the negative aspects and look for reasons to fire the employee. Instead, they should focus on the positive elements, looking for reasons to quickly move a person into a leadership development track.
For example, what kinds of questions does the employee ask? Are they the basic questions, or do they challenge the way of doing things, looking for a more streamlined solution or better way? Do they show up on time or early? Are they easily distracted and full of external problems that bleed over into their work life, or are they highly focused and capable of learning new material quickly? How is their interaction with their peers? Are they quiet, shy, or relatable, understanding how the group interacts and then inserting themselves to make connections and strengthen the group?
Too many times, organizations wait until a person has been working for a "long" (defined differently by every company) period to acknowledge potential. They delay telling someone they see your potential and want to start training you for leadership positions. Diamonds (potential leaders) know they want to be impactful the moment they are hired. That delay can actually reduce their desire, causing them to chafe and potentially search for another place that will value their talent better.
Cross train employees to elevate your organization's leaders
At the C-Suite level, leadership is rarely just the hands-on of a single section. Leaders know that their decisions will have second and third-order effects. There is the likelihood that policies and procedures they implement will impact others that are not in their job description. I.e., a CFO's decisions can affect the engineer's and project manager's work hours. Therefore, the leadership development in your organization cannot be limited to the role they were initially hired for. They should be trained systematically in as many different areas of the organization as possible.
In organizations that can do so, leaders should be placed for six months to a year in each of the various functional areas: finance, engineering, production/manufacturing, HR, sales, and even overseas in one or two assignments. This cross-training will develop a better understanding of how the entire organization works. It provides insight into how their decisions affect each functional area. It will also serve as a litmus test, with the pressure of constantly learning new ways of doing things, testing their mettle and determination to lead the organization. In other words, it reveals whether they can handle the pressure to be a diamond that shines brightly.
Reward them with challenging assignments
I was once told by a senior leader that the reward for doing a great job was not an easier assignment but a harder one. That was frustrating to hear, but it is the right approach from a leader development perspective. When done right, the CEO and those at the C-suite level are the leader's most demanding role. The pressure, responsibility, isolation, and requirements are second to none. The ability to respond to the various winds of change, the slightest tremor in the marketplace, and the guaranteed unseen blows that strike require a will and resiliency that cannot be developed by taking on easier assignments.
While the junior leader may not appreciate it in the moment, later in their career, when they can look back and see what they have overcome, it will give them the strength to continue going. Their ability to move from situations of increasingly more challenging responsibility transforms them into the kind of leader who can be counted on to stop failure quickly and turn a section around. They develop into leaders who can make hard decisions while weighing the consequences appropriately.
Helping a person realize their potential and become a future leader is not easy. Most pieces of carbon end up in a bag waiting to be used to cook someone's meat or heat their home. Some diamonds are used for other things rather than jewelry because they lack some critical element. The best ones, however, are sought after and paid handsomely. Rather than just hope that the organization gets a "best one" every now and again, they should instead consider identifying and sorting their talent early, cross-training them, and utilizing challenging assignments to transform their employees into diamonds. When the process is complete, you could have the brightest C-suite of them all.
Justin D. Loyd, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr. Justin Loyd is a strategic leader with over fifteen years of military service, and over 20 years of community service in ministry. He is dedicated to helping people to climb their mountain, shine their light, and inspire others to do the same. He is the co-owner of Loyd Squared, a counseling, coaching, and consulting business which provides full life service to help you be the best you can be. Their vision: Live your life to the fullest, let us help you along the way!