Want to know the best way to future proof your business?
By developing your future leaders.
According to the 2022 LinkedIn Workplace Report, this is in fact a top people priority for many organizations.
Because baby boomers—born between 1946 and 1964—currently account for 31% of the current workforce, with 56% of them in leadership positions. And these boomers are headed for retirement.
Which means that the intellectual capital loss could be devastating if you haven't prepared emerging leaders to pick up the mantle and fill the leadership gap.
But how can you start supporting the next generation of leaders?
Well, in this article, we'll share practical ideas for doing just that.
How to develop the next generation of leaders
When it comes to getting your future leaders ready, one of the most effective things you can do is invest in leadership coaching.
In fact, this will not only help you upskill your existing managers, but it will prepare your new, entry level managers for their time at the helm. In other words, your leaders in the making.
Here's how to do it:
Start by creating a coaching culture
With businesses still facing mass resignations, and employee morale at an all time low, one way companies can retain, grow and nurture their talent is by creating a coaching culture.
After all, the days where managers would tell their teams what to do are long gone—at least they are in high-performing organizations—and managers must now empower their direct reports to figure out solutions and solve problems for themselves.
They must act as a coach.
But for this to happen, the entire organization needs to be on board. They need to buy into this new coaching culture. And it's rarely an overnight win.
So, what can you do to get started?
- Equip managers with the right skills and know how to have coaching conversations with their direct reports.
- Encourage managers to practice coaching in their one-to-one meetings.
- Encourage managers to get into the habit of sharing regular feedback.
- Make coaching a core part of your next generation leadership program.
- Enable managers to coach their teams as well as the individuals within their teams.
Develop leaders as coaches
We've already touched on it, but one of the most critical skills that any existing or future leader can possess is the ability to coach.
Because as many as 85% of employees report that frequent coaching conversations with their manager would improve their confidence in their role.
Which in turn leads to improved productivity and performance.
Sally-Anne Blanshard, Client Partner at Synthesis Group says:
“What I see so often is the lack of any support when it comes to developing the skills that will ensure people can manage performance, manage conflict, and feedback."
So, how can you train leaders to become coaches?
- Stop relying solely on traditional performance reviews and instead introduce continuous performance discussions.
- Make use of technology that enables managers to put the coaching skills they learn into practice. Better yet, ensure that it enables timely nudges—helping them to develop the right habits and routines—as well as delivering contextually relevant resources at the moments they need it most.
- Teach them how to have difficult conversations.
Provide (and receive) regular feedback
When it comes to developing the next generation of leaders in your organization, feedback is critical.
Well, to start with, regular performance-related feedback plays an important role in employee development. What's more, 96% of employees want it.
So, if you want to develop future leaders—and you don't want to risk them handing in their notice—ensure your managers are invested in their personal and professional development, by conducting regular one-to-ones and sharing both positive and constructive feedback.
But that's not the only reason to focus on feedback.
With the act of giving and receiving feedback one of the seven habits of highly effective teams, it can pay to establish a feedback culture early on, so that it becomes second nature to these employees when they become leaders themselves.
In fact, we would recommend that you encourage employees to provide their managers with constructive feedback—and for managers to actively request it. After all, this is another way to ensure your leaders are continually developing in their roles.
Support managers with having continuous performance discussions
Gone are the days of relying solely on annual appraisals. In fact not only are annual performance reviews often uncomfortable for all involved, they’re also an incredibly inefficient way of delivering feedback for performance improvement.
The best kind of performance reviews are the ones delivered continuously, as part of a weekly cadence, usually through a one-to-one.
These frequent conversations don’t need to be long, but they do need to inform employee performance, helping them adjust behaviors and nip issues in the bud before they become problems.
You should therefore be training managers to provide constructive feedback and give them the tools to deliver support through regular performance development conversations.
Lindsay Tighe, author of Better Leaders Ask Better Questions says:
“I have been teaching leadership Skills for 20 years and the skill most needed to create an empowered, engaged and motivated workforce is that of being a Better Questioner.”
A great way to keep everyone on track is to create development plans which allow both the manager and direct report to discuss and monitor:
- Where the employee currently is in terms of their performance
- What skills they have
- What skills they need to develop and work on
- What skills they want to develop and work on
- What motivates them
- Whether there are any opportunities for them to stretch themselves in their current role
- What their career goals are
- What's holding them back from achieving these goals
Finally, if managers need to have difficult conversations—and they will need to from time to time—train them in how to have these necessary conversations.
In fact, the key is to learn how to handle tough conversations in a way that produces a better outcome.
Enable on-the-job learning
Research shows that employees who attend training courses forget 70% of what they get taught within the first 24 hours.
When it comes to developing your leaders, it's therefore important that you're enabling them to put their newly acquired skills into practice immediately after any face-to-face leadership coaching, so that they can ultimately develop on-the-job.
In fact, according to the 70-20-10 model, 70% of learning happens through on-the-job experiences, and in the flow of an employee's day to day work.
Giving them access to the tools and knowledge that will enable effective leadership development can be fundamental to the growth of your leaders—new and old.
Invest in team development
If you want your leaders of the future to excel and eventually lead their own high performing teams, you should start investing in team development now, so that they can start forming the right habits.
To do this, you should begin by instilling in them the importance of teamwork—that no feat of mankind was achieved by an individual person.
You should also train your people managers to deliver team coaching. In fact, this is key if you want to increase the effectiveness, cohesiveness and performance of the teams across your organization.
Plus, being coached as part of a team will help prepare team members for future leadership roles.
Keep on top of team health
According to McKinsey, a team based management system is essential for an organization to operate at its fullest potential. Plus, it’s another way to lay the foundations of great teamwork and leadership, helping develop the leaders of tomorrow.
Managers therefore need to work with their teams to set collective goals, monitor these goals, share feedback and regularly reflect and evaluate team performance, with the aim of improving it through mentoring, coaching and guiding.
But at times—for example when the team is going through a change in direction, have unhealthy conflict, are experiencing a change in team composition, or simply aren't performing at the top of their game—they will also need to diagnose team health.
In other words, they will need to assess what's working, what isn't, and resolve problems before they escalate.
In HR, you can also leverage the insights from regular team health checks to determine the habits that teams and managers still need to develop, and where to direct support. You can also use it to compare teams across the organization.
Preparing your leaders in the making with the leadership skills of the future
So, just what leadership skills do the next generation of leaders need? As the world of business constantly evolves, there may be new skills that are needed in the future that aren’t necessarily essential to success in a leadership role today.
Gary Warner, Marketing Manager at Joloda Hydraroll, says:
“More than ever, our leaders need to display empathy and support for their team members. Very often, team leaders can be younger than the teams that they are leading, and thus don't always have the life skills and experience to understand what an individual is going through in certain life stages. The most successful future leaders will be those that create a nurturing environment and atmosphere for their teams and are able to translate this whether their team are working remotely or onsite.”
So, given the way businesses are developing, a few areas that next gen leaders might want to focus on upskilling or reskilling, to position themselves and their organizations for future success, include:
- Showing empathy - It may be a soft skill, but it's a mighty one. Empathetic leaders improve employee retention rates, decrease employee turnover, increase employee productivity, increase customer satisfaction and increase collaboration.
- Being influential - Being able to generate buy-in from multiple stakeholders is an essential skill for a leader.
- Being effective - Being effective as a leader is fast becoming more important than being right. Being open to suggestions, to taking risks and working collaboratively with peers towards a shared goal goes a long way to reducing resistance.
- Actively listening - Listening with both ears and eyes enables better understanding of what is being said. It also encourages others to engage in two way dialogue because they feel heard and valued.
- Being inclusive - Diversity feeds innovation, but you can only unlock diversity if people feel safe to share and are included. Leaders who are demonstrably inclusive are the ones who can get the most from their teams.
- Having a growth mindset - Having learning agility is one thing, but having a growth mindset, a thirst to learn, grow and adapt is key for future leaders to evolve as the business does, and remain resilient in the face of adversity.
Petra Zink, author of Trusted Authority, says:
“The rules of influence have changed and that requires a new way of leadership that focuses on coaching skills, building authority through the intersection of credibility and likability, as well as facilitating skills.”
Next generation leadership coaching
At Saberr, we design bespoke leadership development programs with a focus on helping leaders develop the skills they need to lead high performing teams, both now and in the future. In fact, we can build programs that not only support teams, senior leaders, experienced managers, and new managers, but also individuals that show potential.
We do this through a combination of experiential and digital coaching. Our masterclasses and coaching sessions are designed to equip future leaders with the knowledge and confidence to develop their leadership attributes and change mindsets.
Our digital platform then reinforces this learning, enabling them to develop the habits and routines they need to become next generation leaders.