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By: Kathy Albarado on March 21st, 2010

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Employee/Leadership Development is Key in 2010

Business Management & Strategy

Thanks to Lee Self , President of Renaissance EXECUTIVE FORUMS - Northern Virginia, for the great article in her recent newsletter. Lee can be reached at

As we’ve turned the calendar page to the New Year and decade, business leaders are beginning to take stock of their talent management goals for 2010. While 2009 was all about cutting costs and in some cases, people, 2010 has a decidedly new look and feel. In talking with leaders across industries, a new theme is emerging: many are concerned about what they can do to further engage and hold onto their top performers. The “word on the street” is that the “hi-pots” (or high potential employees) are dusting off their resumes, and waiting for the market to turn. Even if the turn-around takes longer than we all hope, the concern is a valid one. From the angle of the employee who is delivering strong results, this is a critical time for the employer to invest in that individual’s growth and development for the future. For once, the employee’s desire for new challenges and career opportunities may be very well-aligned with the business’ needs for new talent to lead within the next two to five years. So, the natural question is this---What should my organization be doing now to address our top employees’ development needs, as well as our organization’s needs for leadership talent in the future?

Developing Leaders On a Shoestring
If leadership development is key in 2010, how can a company in a “recovering” economic environment make that happen? Here are a few simple, practical steps to consider that will not break the bank:

  • Identify the people who are among the 20% of your employees who are delivering 80% of your financial (revenue and/or profit) goals. After you take a look at this list, work with your management team to select the ones who have the potential to lead others in your organization within the next 2 to 3 years.
  • Meanwhile, create a simple plan for making the development of these people a priority over the next 12 -24 months. Identify a champion, whether internal or external, to keep the project on track.
  • Make the first priority an individual meeting with each selected high potential individual. First, thank the employee for what they are doing, especially in these tough times, to deliver value in your organization. Then, let the individual know that they are being singled out as a potential leader for the future. Make sure that he or she understands that development is a personal responsibility, but the company is investing resources in providing personal assistance throughout the process. The message is this: we see you as a part of our future, and are willing to invest time and energy in helping you to develop to your highest potential.
  • Create a sample Individual Development Plan*, and provide a basic workshop in how to go about creating your own plan. Make someone available, whether inside or outside the company, to serve as coach or mentor to each selected employee in reviewing his or her plan, and help in fine-tuning it. Insure that your internal champion is tasked with checking up on the progress of each individual toward the accomplishment of the plan.
  • If economically feasible, enable your high potential employee to attend a leadership class or workshop, or put together a short session using an existing internal leader. If you can’t afford the time or money for formal training, make a good reading list available. Once a month, invite the future leaders to a lunch meeting, and discuss lessons learned from one of the current titles.
  • Follow-through is the most critical element of the plan. Don’t promise to help your folks develop if you can’t stick with it. While the employee is working their Individual Development Plan, consider having some sort of group activity at least every other month for all of the selected individuals. They will be encouraged and energized by the other high performers who are also anxious to learn and grow.

With a minimal investment of time and money, you will be surprised what can be accomplished. By leveraging the talents of existing leaders, while providing high performers with a framework and some modest support, many organizations achieve significant results. So, take our advice and stop complaining about the leadership drought and worrying about the retention of your top talent… simply make leadership development a 2010 priority.

by Terry L. Comp and Larry B. Comp

~Kathy Albarado