At present, there is a shortage of professional employees aged 30 to 50 in companies which results in an inability to fill the significant gap of retiring baby boomers. This situation creates the need to have these younger professionals reach leadership maturity 8 to 10 years faster than past generations. In addition, current millennials are leaving organizations because of “insufficient opportunities to develop their leadership skills”.
Businesses are hindered in helping the young professionals develop their leadership skills by lack of available qualified and interested mentors because:
1. Qualified senior executives are overwhelmed by their time demands.
2. Many companies aren’t structured to provide for this – their focus is on growth and profitability of their business – not on leadership training and development.
3. Some companies do not recognize the value for the future of the organization and may make short-term decisions for profitability. That is, they don’t make the $ investment to help the individuals develop and improve their leadership and management skills.
So, how are businesses going to get there?
I suggest that those companies who have not done so, seriously consider the potential lost opportunity costs in not identifying and developing future leaders who can have a positive impact on the long-term viability of the company. The short-term investment could yield significant returns in the future.
For those companies that are considering this investment the following may be helpful:
How Do We Best Develop Future Leaders?
I believe that the best way to help develop future leaders is for the company to identify and engage a highly qualified executive coach or mentor to provide assistance in the development of the identified future potential leaders. I also believe that the mentor should have achieved and functioned at least at the level that the individual being mentored is trying to reach. The hands-on management and leadership experience of the mentor facilitates the learning because real life case situations can be used to teach the mentee. The closer those experiences are to the day-to-day environment of the individual being mentored, the easier it is for that individual to grasp an understanding and execute the skills being learned.
There are many executive coaches and mentors and they have varying approaches to their assistance. A good measure of the coaches / mentors is to review the list of individuals that have been mentored by the coach/mentor and the level of success that these individuals have reached.
As a former CEO of various business units at KPMG I mentored numerous individuals throughout my career. While at KPMG, I would observe the individuals being mentored interacting with clients, peers and superiors and thus be able to measure the development of the individuals. Through my experience, I have found that the best development for a leader is to have that individual execute activities in the environment of a leader while being observed, evaluated and coached in real time, receiving suggestions on how to improve the skills that the individual is focusing upon.
It is like a major league baseball player. If he wants to be a great hitter, he has to have an excellent batting coach and then he has to spend countless hours practicing, under the guidance of that coach, what he is trying to perfect – and, more importantly, he has to get a good deal of experience in “Game Situations”.
For a leader, the “Game Situation” is interacting with people. Interacting with those who you are leading, those who are your peers and those who are your superiors. You learn how to be a good leader by interacting with all of these individuals and then learning and practicing good leadership techniques and management skills. During their growth experience, future leaders will usually observe a number of BAD leadership techniques and poor management skills. The opportunity for good growth and development of future leaders exists when there are qualified mentors available to assist the individuals in recognizing the desired techniques and skills and helping them to develop those skills and techniques.
I structure my mentoring programs to provide coaching and guidance on the skills and techniques and also provide “Game Situations” for participants by having them interact with peers or executives at a higher level, performing an assignment to accomplish certain objectives in that environment. I then observe the individual’s actions, evaluate the effectiveness of the results and offer suggestions for improvement in the skills that we are focusing upon.
I welcome any additional thoughts and suggestions from business leaders in meeting this challenge.