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How and Why You Need to Develop the Next Generation of Leadership

What’s a pack without a leader? Headless.

What’s a ship without a captain? Sinking.

What’s a company without a succession plan? Direction-less.

No exaggeration this. Packs need leaders to establish supremacy, ships need captains to reach shores, and your company needs a succession plan to stay relevant.

Successful organisations are built on the foundation of strong leadership and today’s millennials are more than keen to learn the tricks of the trade.

Without a succession plan, your company will have to battle chaos, business loss, unhappy customers and attrition. That’s why developing the next generation of leadership is an imperative.

That said, the nitty-gritties of running a business can’t be mastered overnight. You need to create a process and a plan to first identify potential candidates to pass the baton, train them and then give them free reign. Here are three ways you can achieve that:

Shadowing People in Senior Positions
It’s possibly the oldest method of learning a skill or imparting knowledge. Simply put, all you have to do is let your employee walk in your shoes. Job shadowing is the best way for future leaders to understand and experience first-hand what it really means to be the boss.

Take your prospective successor under your wing. As a leader of an organisation, making decisions is one of the most important—if not the most important—responsibilities of a leader. Make him or her accompany you for client meetings, crisis management meetings, appraisal reviews and anything and everything that involves decision-making.

Another advantage of job shadowing is that it helps prospective leaders interact with employees and eases them into accepting prospective leaders as their future boss. This makes the transition smooth and more efficient. It also familiarises prospective leaders with their company’s culture and employee expectations.

According to a guide to job shadowing from Manchester Metropolitan University, there are three types of job shadowing.

Observation (fly on the wall): Candidate passively observes your work but doesn’t get involved, like attending meetings with clients where candidates are silent observers.

Burst Interactions: This refers to shadowing you on specific activities only. This is preceded by a mini-brief and follow up debrief. This provides short periods of focused activity rather than passive observation.

Job Sharing: An extension of the observation model, where the candidate actually undertakes the tasks he or she has been observing.

You could use either one of the three or all the three in your organisation to ensure your candidates get a peek into what’s in store for them as leaders of organisations.

Job Rotation
In order to be a successful leader—and someone who’s respected in the organisation—candidates need to be jack of all trades and master of some, if not all.

A great way to achieve that is to encourage candidates to work in different departments to get a feel of the different areas of business. By doing so, candidates develop cross-functional abilities that help them get oriented with employees in other departments and also their pain points. It provides them with the big picture which they hardly get to see.

Job rotational programs typically run with specific time intervals. They can run from about a week to about a month, depending on the organisation and the importance of the skill that a candidate is trying to master.

Job rotation cannot be an ad-hoc process. If you really want your candidate to be your successor, and a good one at that, you need to ensure that the job rotation program clearly spells out the size, structure and duration of the program.

As a leader, your candidate needs to be well-versed with finance, sales, marketing and not to forget, interpersonal skills. Job rotation is a platform that exposes future leaders to employees in all these different departments, thereby providing them with an opportunity to interact with them.

The Perks of Mentoring
Mentoring millennials is never easy. With them, formal mentoring programs won’t take off. You’ve got to find new ways of preparing them as your next-in-line. Studies have shown that young employees are willing to learn and make a difference. They are also tech-savvy and expect mentorship programs to reflect that.

Jeanne Meister, co-author of The 2020 Workplace, writes in her book that the mentorship program for millennials is different from traditional mentorship. She says it needs to go beyond the face-to-face model by using social media.

Also as a mentor, you have to focus on nurturing your mentee’s soft skills—by now your mentee would have already proven tangible abilities like aptitude, technical skills and expertise on the job. What most mentors fail to instill in their next-in-line is empathy, the art of listening to both clients and co-workers, and being amiable.

Experts say mentors should also encourage mentees to do CEO test-runs where mentees put whatever they have learnt to test as stand-in CEOs for a day—or even a week. This will help both the organisation and the prospective leader figure whether he or she is fit to lead the organisation.

These tricks can help your organisation develop the next generation of leadership and ensure business continuity. Because like they say, the show must go on. And with succession planning, it will.

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