How a long term view of talent prevents the creation of Blockers on your team

Rapid growth. Achieving strategic objectives. Reaching a new phase of success. In high growth organizations, the daily focus is on serving clients and basic blocking and tackling. Leadership development often takes a back seat. And then one day the CEO or Board of Directors realizes that the team that took the business to its current success will have trouble achieving at the next level. The priority had been business growth – growing leaders, unfortunately, was deferred.

Frequently, we encounter clients who overlook leadership development until it becomes a crisis. Feeling threatened by the loss of control in the now larger, matrixed enterprise, a key player on the team begins to subtly block change, slowing the progress of the organization. By then, momentum is lost. In this situation, we have observed two likely outcomes. Both are costly and detrimental to organizational health. First, we see clients attempt to work around the Blocker individual. Out of loyalty for past performance, the CEO does not act and instead attempts to reorganize to minimize the impact, essentially working around the Blocker. But the reality is that a leader in a critical position, who knows the organization well can become the regulator for change, hence a Blocker. Organizing around a Blocker never works in the long run. The entire business suffers, agents of positive change become frustrated and the Blocker eventually fails.

The second outcome that we have observed is that the CEO realizes the leadership team that took him or her to success does not have the capabilities to guide the now more complicated organization. So, the CEO resorts to bringing in external talent. Sometimes this is a good answer, as a fresh set of eyes can sometimes be quite beneficial. But new talent at a senior level comes with risk. Cultural assimilation is difficult and “tissue rejection” is not uncommon for leaders joining a tight established team from the outside. And when too much talent is recruited externally, existing employees reconsider their own chances for upward mobility. While new blood can bring positive energy to an organization, there are tradeoffs.

Our answer to this dilemma is to develop leaders early and often. We recommend that our clients refresh their strategic plan annually. As a follow on, we suggest that our clients complete a talent plan that is aligned to their most current strategy. Individuals with the potential to grow with the organization and eventually take on larger leadership positions are highlighted. For each of these high potential contributors, development plans are put in place to increase their likelihood of success. Together, we create bench strength in your organization, a homegrown talent that can grow with the business. We will also help you to take an objective look at the existing members of your leadership team, identify their strengths and opportunities for development. We can even assist you with coaching them to a new level of performance. We have tools that help individual contributors, managers, and senior leaders understand what it means to be successful in a dynamic environment.

The essence of talent management is a long-term view of leadership needs. As you execute your vision, make sure that each step of the way you have the leaders to take you to the next level. Anne L. Gehring is a Partner with Stanton Blackwell. Give us a call at (703) 254-7071 or send us an email at [email protected] We are interested in helping you achieve your goal.