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When should you plant a tree?

Almost all of you reading this will have something going on in your businesses to develop leaders.

You may be the CEO making the decision to invest in future leaders, or you may be one of those managers going through the process of development.

It’s absolutely right to do this: all businesses have to build for the future. This is true for big multi nationals. All businesses need a smooth transition between outgoing and incoming CEO’s. Examples of this being done well are Jack Welch’s exit from GE and Tim Cook taking over Apple when Steve Jobs died: both of course, long planned for departures. Not so well was the transition that had to happen suddenly when the CEO of Total died in a plane crash, with no apparent successor. Like having a will, it’s important to have put plans in place before you need them.

It’s just as important for smaller businesses, or regional or country offices of bigger organisations, to have considered who is going to lead and who can be part of the leadership team. It is too common to hear the line that “there is too big a gap between the current leadership team and the next level.” If so, whose fault is that?

I am not convinced that enough real planning and thought goes into:

What type of leaders the organisation needs for the future. That will be determined by the direction of the organisation and the industry sector.
What capabilities those future leaders will need. Often very different to those possessed by the current leaders.
What is the current talent pool like? That needs some rigorous assessment and that rarely happens.
How your organisation closes the gap between the current capabilities and what is required.
This issue runs through the whole organisation. It impacts every function, every business unit and most levels of management. Of course the short term solution is to buy in talent, simply because the need is pressing and there is no time to build your own. We also rationalize this by saying there is a talent shortage. But the strategy of buy not build is damaging in many ways. It’s costly. It sends the wrong message to aspirants currently in your business. It breeds and industry mindset of poaching.

The old proverb,

“When is the best time to plant a tree? 25 years ago…….and today.”

holds true for developing our leaders. We need to start applying a more systematic, thoughtful and planned approach to leadership and succession, if we are going to create businesses that will thrive in the near and far future.

Richard Wentworth Ping
CEO Wentworth People

If you are interested in finding out how you can create high performance cultures in your workplace, contact Wentworth People here or call 1800 807288

We have been helping organisations build successful, enjoyable work cultures since 1989.