What’s the No. 1 reason employees quit? According to the 2019 Employee Engagement Report, it’s because of organizations and the decisions executives make.
When you have the wrong leadership team in place, conflict arises. Engagement decreases. Employees leave.
So how do ensure your leadership team is the right fit for your organization?
The answer lies in the fundamentals. Organizations of every size and industry need a process for evaluating senior leaders and ensuring they map to behaviors required to achieve core business goals.
Here’s what that looks like in action:
Determine the behaviors needed to execute your business strategy.
A generic “good leader” isn’t good enough for an organization that wants to achieve optimal results. Your company needs a leader who can champion your organizational culture and drive the execution of your business strategy. Just any leader won’t do.
You can determine leadership alignment by mapping leadership competencies to your business strategy. Start by looking at the key initiatives dictated by your strategy. What leadership skills and behaviors are required to successfully execute that strategy? The results of this exercise are an inventory of the needed competencies required for strategic success.
For example, if your organization works in a highly regulated field, competencies around leading quality initiatives or leading through systems thinking will be critical. Leadership competencies should fit the work environment—whether that environment is innovative and fast-paced or slow and methodical. They should also fit the growth of your organization. The right CEO for a community bank will depend on whether there’s a growth strategy in place. If the bank is growing, it will require a different CEO than a bank that’s focused on retaining customers.
The takeaway here is that an exec with a strong resume of leadership—even in the same industry and position—still may not be the best fit for the company. Hire according to strategy alignment as well.
Use data to understand your senior leaders.
A core tenet of talent optimization is the need to take an objective, data-driven approach to align people with the business context. This includes the senior leadership team. Without data in hand, assessing alignment between leaders and organizational strategy becomes guesswork.
Here are a few methods of obtaining objective data:
- Psychographic and behavioral assessments. Assess attitudes, temperament, values, opinions, and other indicators to understand the humans behind the suits.
- 360 or peer reviews. What do other people think of the C-suite? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- Proficiency ratings. Scoring systems or internal certifications can create benchmarks for leaders to be compared against.
You need a combination of hard data and qualitative analysis to identify the behavioral strengths and weaknesses of your leadership team and determine their fit with the overall business strategy.
Map your executive team to required leadership competencies.
If you run a small- or mid-sized business, you may have an aggressive growth strategy in play in the next year or so. Does your leadership team mirror this business strategy in how they approach their work and staff every day?
Do they have a high risk tolerance? Are they driven and independent? Do they move at a quick clip? These are the personality traits you need in a hypergrowth company.
Conversely, your company may be in need of some internal structure. If this is the case, a systems-minded leader may be better suited for the task.
Evaluating the competencies of your leaders and how they sync with the fluidity of your organization should be a top-of-mind, recurring endeavor. Different levels of business maturity require varying degrees and style of leadership.
Address leadership gaps.
In the process of evaluating leadership fit, you may identify gaps between the leadership abilities needed and those present in the executive team. When gaps are present, you must focus attention on closing the gaps.
There are three ways to close leadership gaps:
- A senior leader can develop their leadership abilities.
- A new senior team member with the needed behaviors can be hired.
- The team can delegate to a less senior team member with the needed behaviors.
Broaden your definition of a leader.
A key distinction between good companies and great companies is the ability to surface talent wherever it lives.
There are leaders at every level of the organization, even if they don’t have the title to show for it—yet.
Developing future leaders keeps your company moving forward, and it allows you to organically promote people from within. As roles need filling, there’s already a natural replacement in line—a sort of succession planning that isn’t reserved to just the C-suite.
Who at your company takes the lead on projects without being asked? Who becomes self-certified in role-adjacent tasks on their own accord? Who already has a track record of troubleshooting complicated interdepartmental problems?
Create a talent pipeline within your organization by recognizing and rewarding these types of employees. They’re the next generation of leadership.