Your organization may have some rising stars – high achieving employees with the ability to move up in your organization and carry the demands of your organization’s most challenging and promising opportunities. You may love their work, think highly of their potential, but notice a few skills or abilities that need some development before promoting them to the next level. Here are a few ways to grow and engage your rising stars.
Uncover their (and your) objectives.
According to a 2011 study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council, 1 in 5 emerging leaders believe their personal aspirations are different than the plans of their organizations. Obviously, there’s a strong disconnect between what emerging leaders want from a career and what they think their organization wants from them in the future. Before your organization pours resources and time into the process of developing these employees, be sure that both of your objectives match. Similarly, in order to know how to develop your rising stars, your organization needs to determine its long-term objectives and the talent it will need to achieve those. For example, will your business be expanding? Will its product/service line change? What skills will it need? How will technology affect your workplace? When will leaders retire or move on? Growing your best people often requires good workforce and succession planning.
Place on intense assignments and in challenging roles.
Research shows that intense, challenging, and risky assignments are the best learning experiences for growing leadership capabilities – and more meaningful than traditional job rotation programs. These developmental assignments not only engage the rising star, but also allow your organization to evaluate how well the employee performs on new challenges they have not experienced and where further development is needed. Similarly, rising stars should be placed in challenging roles and positions – perhaps an undeveloped area of the business, a department that is underperforming, or a potential business opportunity that has not yet been ceased. It’s important not to shield rising stars from the realities and stressful situations they will face in future roles. Rather, throw them into the fire, but build in support.
Provide formal training and development opportunities.
While job experiences are one of the best ways to grow rising stars, there’s no replacement for the classroom. Seminars, activities, and instruction are a necessary supplement to leadership development initiatives and frequently are used to grow capabilities in key leadership topics like change management, presentation, communication, influence, and negotiation. Other formal development opportunities such as attendance at conferences, certification programs, advanced degrees, participation on boards, and involvement in professional associations can all be helpful in growing capabilities. Rising stars will need to acquire knowledge not only in their organizations and through experiences, but also externally from facilitators, coaches, and peers.
Engage in regular feedback and dialogue.
A conversation once or twice a year isn’t going to grow your best employees. Development done right requires frequent conversations and dialogue. This dialogue can address how the employee is performing and provide direction, guidance, and coaching on new stretch tasks and development opportunities. It can also help gauge their engagement and satisfaction with the initiative and how they are progressing in their development plan. These conversations often can help avoid derailment – failure or underperformance at the next level – a common problem many leadership development programs experience.
Beyond one-on-one dialogue, 360 feedback is another common leadership development tool that can help your rising star determine how their style and competencies are perceived by others in the workplace such as managers, coworkers, and customers. The results can be used for follow-up coaching and training.
Use your current leaders as resources.
While most development responsibilities fall on HR or line managers, seasoned leaders and top managers can (and should) be actively involved in mentoring and developing rising stars – not just evaluating and selecting who these leaders will be. Oftentimes, exposure to current leaders and tapping into their perspectives, knowledge, and experiences can be very effective in growing future leaders if they want to be engaged in the developmental process. It can also engage your rising stars, providing them with opportunities to interact and build relationships with your senior staff. Plus, your organization may save on other developmental costs such as use of an external coach or mentor that is not as ‘in tune’ with the workings of your company.
A range of work experiences, developmental activities, dialogue and feedback, and use of current leaders is a simple recipe for growing your rising stars into higher levels of your organization and engaging them.
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