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Leadership Team Development: “C” Level Talent will not Produce “A” Level Results

If you are like most business executives, you have some pretty tough annual performance metrics tattooed on your chest like a bulls-eye.  While you can’t change the market environment to be better than it actually is, you can and should be continuously assessing and growing the team of leaders below you.

It is our experience that too many executives do not realistically and accurately assess the talent of the immediate team below them.  I believe the following five factors to be the most common causes for incorrectly judging subordinate talent:

  1. Personal relationships – the leader has known the subordinate for a long time and finds it difficult to separate personal relationships from professional relationships.
  2. Inability to deal with conflict  – the leader believes that asking a leader to raise his/her game will cause a conflict.
  3. Inability to deal with change – the leader does not want to deal with change even though the subordinate is not performing.
  4. Inability to effectively recruit top talent – the leader is unwilling or unable to recruit talent that will upgrade performance.
  5. Executive lacks sound judgment – the leader falsely thinks the subordinate is better than they are.

Leadership team development begins with taking an objective inventory of what talent you need and what talent you have.  In a fairly stable environment, executive leaders have the following two core strategies for leading the organization forward and continuously improving performance:

  1. Continue to grow your top performers – this is the path of least resistance for most leaders because they can put off the tough conversation/decision with lesser performers for a later day.  We call this the “lie and deny” strategy.
  2. Upgrade the talent on the team – here you are culling the lowest performers and bringing in or promoting fresh new talent.

First, you have to make sure each leader below you is all that she/he can be.  To do this you have to have a well-written and regularly reviewed personal development plan that grows the competencies and capacities of each executive/manager.  A personal development plan continuously pushes people out of their comfort zone and challenges them to take on more complex leadership, management and business assignments.  Ultimately, the plan identifies who can and/or is willing to grow and who is not.

If you choose tell yourself you have better talent than you do, understand that in most cases you are not fooling anyone but yourself.  The team you build is a reflection of your ability to successfully lead an organization.

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