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Dear Workforce Developing Future Leaders

Dear Grooming:

It is great news that your organization recognizes the importance of developing the management and leadership capabilities of your staff, as well as the need do this in a way your employees will embrace. Since an organization’s frontline managers are its direct link to employees, they exert strong influence on performance and morale. Getting managers to recognize this is only half the battle. The other half is to provide them with the opportunities and tools to develop those skills.

You may be surprised at how many of your staff welcomes these opportunities. The farther a person advances in an organization, the more that interpersonal skill will replace technical skills as crucial drivers of success. The ability to lead and manage people, and to interact with and influence others, has become more important–and more complex–than ever.

Many managers are promoted into managerial roles because they exhibited strong performance as technicians. The shift from technical to strategic is often tough, and it’s no wonder that a 2001 Harvard Business School study found that nearly 40 percent of new managers fail within their first 18 months. Unfortunately, many organizations provide no formal development for new managers and no refresher training for existing managers or high-potential employees.

It is not uncommon to encounter resistance from managers when presenting management-development opportunities. They may be hesitant to admit to areas of weakness, implying that they need additional training, and may raise many barriers to participation (most commonly cited is lack of time). Resistance to change and fear of failure are natural.

You can overcome this by answering the question many managers have: “What’s in it for me?” By positioning your development as a way to grow with the organization, you provide an incentive for managers to participate and may overcome some of the barriers.

Managers need a broad variety of skills: leadership, coaching, communication, general business, organizational and technology. They need a solid understanding of the industry in which they operate and the structure and functions of your organization.

Understanding what is needed is the first step. One way to accomplish this is to talk with your staff members. This is a chance to understand their needs and concerns to ensure that they are addressed. This gives them a feeling of having more control and avoids the reaction that this is a mandate from the top. Getting all stakeholders involved in this process is a key component of success.

This input could also be part of a change-management strategy, although change management does not end there. Communication is a vital element and needs to be provided frequently, effectively and continuously. Training on how to deal with resistance to change also should be provided, along with a process that gives employees other opportunities to raise their concerns and issues.

Finally, recognize that management and leadership development is an ongoing process, not a one-time or annual event. Moreover, to be successful it should be integrated into daily business activities, take into account the current culture and style of your organization, and be perceived by participants as meaningful to them and their careers.

SOURCE: JJ Thakkar, Capital H Group, the Woodlands, Texas, March 8, 2006.

LEARN MORE: Please read how to identify future leaders.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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