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Friday, April 19, 2019
   
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Replace Yourself

As I work with leaders of organizations, I find often that they are investing almost no energy in developing the skills of younger leaders who will assume future responsibility.

Why would a leader want to prepare the individuals who might someday take away his or her job? Good question!

Let’s face it, at some future time you won’t be filling the position you currently hold. You’ll retire or decide to put your time and energy against some other priority, such as starting another business, focusing on some philanthropic endeavor, or spending time with grandchildren. Of course, you may die before any of that can occur.

Time passes. Circumstances change. Responsibilities transition.

Despite the inevitability of it all, most leaders devote little or no time to developing the competencies of the individuals who will ultimately replace them. Of the 67 attributes that I use when evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of leaders, “developing others” has the lowest overall rating!

Is that because people don’t know how to do it? Maybe.

Is it because leaders don’t want to face the impending reality? I doubt it.

Is it because people are too busy working on the problems of the moment, never even thinking about developing those under their authority to handle greater responsibility? BINGO!

Further, most leaders are not good at coaching others and have little motivation to do so. You have to be focused on “the other guy” to be willing to spend your time increasing his skills, especially when you have problems of your own! After all, what reward is there in developing others?

Let me answer that question. Over the past ten years, the focus of my work has been to help organizations install a conscious, planned leadership development process. In EVERY case, there has been a measurable improvement in results. Sales and profits improved, customer retention and satisfaction increased, productivity increased, and turnover of personnel decreased.

Am I claiming that installing a leadership development process CAUSED those improvements? No one can show a cause-and-effect correlation that directly. However, I BELIEVE that the focus on improving the skills of individuals stimulated different choices, and the resulting behaviors of the leaders and those they influenced led to the improved results.

What’s required to make such a change? The key leader, be it the owner of the company or the manager of the department, has to make a conscious choice. Most organizations have no leadership development system because either no one ever thought of it or no one organized a process to make it happen.

Developing others requires first a change in thinking. The leader has to expect the members of the organization to be intentional about learning and growing.

But isn’t that expensive? Nope! Research indicates that 70 percent of all leadership skill development occurs right there on the job. It just takes a different mindset about learning—looking at every event and process as an opportunity for improvement. Further, leaders must consciously delegate additional and different responsibilities, so that the challenge facing direct reports stretches them to grow.

The next 20 percent of all development occurs by learning from others. It’s amazing how much a person learns from watching and evaluating good bosses. Sometimes bad bosses are an even more extensive learning opportunity. Observing role models, quizzing mentors, and seeking feedback from customers, suppliers, bosses, direct reports, and peers is a great way to build leadership skills.

The remaining 10 percent of development occurs from attending courses and conferences.  With a little bit of planning and guidance, many leadership development courses can be taught by skilled individuals within your organization.

Begin NOW to look at the individuals under your authority in a different way. They have great potential for growth and will be stimulated if they know you are interested in enhancing their skills. Any time you are involved in solving a problem or in generating plans for the future, have someone you are developing participate with you.

If you encourage that development, you may find that one day you’ll be replaced. You’ll enjoy a freedom and assurance that you can only imagine today. Prepare yourself (by preparing others) for bigger and more exciting challenges!

Dennis Hooper is a leadership coach, helping organizations build future leaders. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Call him at (478)-988-0237. His website is www.buildingfutureleaders.com
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