“The difference between
involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the
pig is committed.” — Martina Navratilova
“The biggest differentiator of
companies that excel in leadership development is the commitment and ownership
of the CEO or top executive.” — Dan McCarthy
So when it comes to leadership development, what’s the difference between a CEO
that is just “involved” and one that is really committed?
1. Focus on results and don’t let the process be the
tail wagging the dog.
There are way too many
organizations get caught up in the process and lose sight of the results. They
create complicated processes and forms, thick binders, have long meetings, and
put way too much importance on impressing their board of directors in their
annual talent review. Once the meeting is over, the binder gets set aside and
nothing happens until the next year. VP and senior managers soon catch on that
it’s nothing but an exercise and focus on looking good instead of being good.
This doesn't mean the annual
CEO and board reviews are not important — if you don’t do this, then nothing
happens. Events, like annual check-ups, force things to happen that otherwise
get pushed aside because they are not urgent.
2. Have high expectations for the head of HR.
The CEO’s HR partner not only
needs to know all of the best practices and processes, but they have to have
the ability to influence and be trusted by the executive team as well as be the
CEO’s trusted adviser on talent. It’s a tough balance — they may be coaching a
struggling VP one day and recommending to the CEO the same VP be replaced the
next day. They have to be able to play match-maker and broker job changes, and
manage all of the ego and politics involved.
3. Practice what you preach.
Committed CEO's publicly work
on their own leadership development, then work on the development of their
executive team. They coach them, give them feedback, and develop individual
development plans with them. They support their development. A CEO’s behaviors
are powerful — they set the expectations for the rest of the management team,
creating a trickle-down effect of leadership development.
4. Know how executives really develop.
Think back on your career —
where and how did you learn your most valuable leadership lessons? It was
5. Be the CTB (Chief Talent Broker)
While there are challenges to cross-functional movement of high potentials, somehow the companies best at leadership development figure out how to do it without damaging the business and ruining careers. They intentionally move their HIPOs — high potentials — from job to job to get them ready for bigger jobs.
If it’s left up to each manager, it won’t happen. Why should they? It’s certainly not in their best interests to give up their best talent. The CEO is the only one (other than the HR vice president) looking at leadership development from a what’s best for the company, long-range perspective. Managers won’t do it — or even see value in it — unless the CEO establishes it as an expectation and encourages them to give up their top talent and be willing to accept (and develop) unlikely developmental candidates.
6. Spend time assessing talent.
Assessing talent is all about having regular talent reviews, conducting formal assessments, and spending time with high-potentials. Know what to look for, too — indicators of success in larger roles isn’t the same as performance in a current role. Astute CEOs know how to ask the questions, what behaviors to look for, and the difference between performance (results) and leadership potential.
7. Hold others accountable for assessing and developing future leaders.
All too often companies will conduct talent reviews and succession plan reviews and discuss development and IDPs — then, a year later, nothing happens. A CEO needs to establish the vision, set meaningful goals, measure them, and hold people accountable. It takes time to change a culture, but a few public coronations and hangings help send the message that it’s important.
8. Stay involved in company leadership development programs.
Yes, CEO's should keep sponsoring those executive development programs and show up to speak — that’s a good start. However, committed CEOs don’t just show up at the beginning and end — they teach in programs, get to know participants and help set program objectives and measures.
9. Keep the board engaged.
The CEO’s board is involved in all of the other strategic aspects of the business — why not leadership development? Board members can be valuable sources of insight, advice and connections, and their support is important when it’s time to make key talent decisions.
10. Take decisive action on under performers
Entrenched under performers block the development and advancement of an organization’s high potentials.