Think HBR

Developing organisational leadership capability

Philippa Woolf
Hunter TAFE
There has been a great deal of discussion in recent times about how to create a strong leadership capability within organisations. Surveys recently conducted among learning and development (L and D) and Human Resources (HR) executives in the UK found that 34% of organisations had increased their investment to develop leaders at senior levels, however only one third believed that the money had been well spent.
Deloitte’s 2015 Human Capital Trends global survey has found that leadership and learning have dramatically increased in importance, but the capability gap is widening as demand increases for leadership at every level of the organisation, especially among ‘Millennials’. As a result areas such as culture and engagement, leadership, and development have become urgent organisational priorities.
How can organisations improve their leadership programs and succession planning options?
A key feature of any successful leadership agenda must be the provision of effective support for first time leaders or leaders who have expanded their roles and responsibilities. Many frontline or first time leaders often have strong technical or operational skills but, as any leader will tell you, it is the people management skills involved in successfully leading teams that are often described as the most critical. There is also a challenge for experienced leaders to continually adapt and grow leadership capability as responsibilities change or the size of their team expands.
The weight of expectation for modern leaders can be overwhelming so it becomes crucial that our teams make the best possible start on their new leadership journey.
The organisation’s HR team can provide aspiring team leaders or those team leaders seeking to expand their responsibilities with some simple strategies that can build confidence and in turn grow organisational leadership capability.
1. Do your homework on the business unit as much as possible. Understand their role, previous performance successes and disappointments and any external challenges they have faced recently or changes that may be imminent.
2. Confirm the scope of your responsibilities, available resources, scope of the function, levels of decision making authority and ways in which your performance will be measured.
3. Spend some time determining how your role and your team can add the best value to the organisation. Reflect on what the functions are of the team. Are there opportunities to improve the contribution to the organisation in the way the team delivers their services?
4. Develop and confirm your ‘must do’ priorities for your first 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. This planning includes the preparation of your ‘100 day plan’ which assists you to focus your energies and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Discuss with senior managers and teams on a regular basis.
5. Clearly communicate your vision or plan to the team. Where do we want to be in 12 months? What do we want to have achieved? What are our goals? How will we get there? How will we measure our performance?
6. Discuss and confirm the communication methods that will work most effectively for your teams, senior managers and peers.
7. Define the culture you believe is necessary for the team. What behaviours are appropriate? What positive behaviours and attitudes need to be fostered? Once these have been defined you can communicate those expectations clearly to the team.
8. Make a concerted effort to personally connect with your team and one to one partnerships.
9. Make a conscious and determined effort to make positive impressions at every opportunity in your new role. Convey your leadership through your communication and your actions by delivering on expectations with conviction and enthusiasm.
10. Invest in your network. Create a deliberate strategy to invest in building strong internal and external stakeholder partnerships.
11. Manage the change process. Where you have a number of change projects identified, reflect on the priority, the expected outcome, the current engagement level of the team and implement the change program accordingly.
Focus on small wins initially to build your confidence and the confidence of those around you.
12. Deliver. Deliver. Deliver. New managers must deliver successful outcomes within reasonable time frames.
Identify the priorities and focus your efforts on ensuring that projects of tasks are completed to a high standard.
Resist the temptation to take on too many things at once for exactly this purpose.
Phillippa Wolfe Philippa Woolf
is a Hunter TAFE Teacher and Human Resources consultant. Philippa is a specialist in leadership and management and delivers professional training to organisations and individuals online, in the workplace, and face-to-face in the classroom.