Thursday, July 7, 2016

Leaders Ready Now

Last week saw the launch of a highly anticipated (and deservedly so) book, Leaders Ready Now: Accelerating Growth in a Faster World, by Matthew J Paese, Audrey B. Smith, and William C. Byham.  If you get half out of what I did, you'll be well on your way in your growth as a leader.

My guest blogger this week is actually by three.  The three authors of this great new book.

Why Are You Pursuing Acceleration?
The business reason for acceleration is often summarized like this: “We’re running
desperately short of leaders, and if we can’t get more of them—good ones—very soon, we’ll be in trouble. It’s not an option to buy talent from the outside, so we have only two options: grow from within or fail.”

This usually causes management to sit up straight and pay close attention to the next part of the meeting: How to solve this? What most executives are thinking at this point is basically what’s going through their heads when the organization faces a quality problem or a service problem or a cost problem: We need to analyze the causes, develop solutions, and execute a plan.

Except that acceleration is different. An organization can fix a quality, service, or cost problem with new and better processes that people learn to execute with discipline. But a leadership shortage will be filled only with energy for growth—fear and excitement—which then fuels the process and discipline that an acceleration system also requires. So, aiming to solve the talent problem demands a plan to solve the energy problem.
Energy will grow as you take on more risk with developing your people. But bigger risks require bigger whys. Why grow? Why accelerate? For management, the why is the business case for acceleration. In the absence of a strong one, it is difficult to convince senior executives to take any risks (much less big ones) with development. In fact, acceleration isn’t appropriate for every organization (e.g., companies in rapid start-up mode may need to emphasize talent acquisition, while others may be stocked with so much talent that the main challenge is retention).

For individual leaders, the why is the personal case for acceleration. Without one, it is difficult to convince individuals to take big chances with their own development. The typical conversation with an individual leader highlights the potentially exciting, lucrative, and influential future that acceleration can bring; the leader can—if the process works—learn, earn, and determine much more in the organization. For most, this would be enough to garner full interest and enthusiasm for whatever may come next. But interest and enthusiasm are simply not enough. Remember that the most powerful learning experiences— the ones that truly transform leadership capability—are characterized less by design than by necessity. When asked how they came into their moments of rapid learning, leaders routinely report reasons such as, “They needed me, and I was the only one available who could do it,” or “I thought I could make a big difference,” or “My boss believed I could do it, so I agreed.”

When it comes to creating energy for acceleration, there is a vast difference between “You could benefit from this” and “We need you.” To create a more powerful why for both management and individual learners, it is insufficient to make a case on behalf of only the business or the person. You will need to appeal to both. “We (the business) need you (the person) to take a big chance.” Your case must be compelling to both management and each individual, conveying why the organization needs leaders to step up, what it needs from each leader, and why it’s worth taking big risks to achieve faster, more significant growth.

Matthew J. Paese, Ph.D., is Vice President of Succession and C-Suite Services for Development Dimensions International (DDI). Matt’s work has centered on the application of succession, assessment, and development approaches as they apply to boards, CEOs, senior management teams, and leaders across the pipeline. He consults, coaches, speaks, and conducts research around all those topics and more.
Audrey B. Smith, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President for Global Talent Diagnostics at DDI. Audrey's customer-driven innovation and global consulting insights have helped shape DDI's succession, selection, and development offerings, from the C-suite to the front line. She has been a key strategist and solution architect, encompassing technology-enabled virtual assessments and development aligned to current business challenges.
William C. Byham, Ph.D., is Executive Chairman of DDI. He cofounded the company in 1970 and has worked with hundreds of the world's largest organizations on executive assessment, executive development, and succession management. Bill authored Zapp!® The Lightning of Empowerment, a groundbreaking book that has sold more than 3 million copies. He has coauthored 23 other books, including seminal works on the assessment center method.