How to Train & Develop Capable Next-Generation Leaders

As our largest working population – baby boomers – retires in larger and larger numbers (only 1 in 3 is still working, according to this study), we are being left with the largest leadership gap in history.

The men and women who have successfully built our economy’s small and medium sized businesses are leaving behind big shoes to fill. And just as their organizations were not built overnight, neither are leaders capable of filling those shoes.

Identifying and preparing the next generation of leadership is a process that takes time and intentional effort; indeed, future leaders must have more than just business acumen. They must also possess strong emotional intelligence, strategic planning and finance skills, and a thorough understanding of the organization and its operations.

Cosgrove Partners specializes in ownership transitions and next-generation leadership. Our Emerging Leaders Program is a two-phase approach that help businesses identify and develop leaders who are prepared to take a business into its next season of life.

Build Competency Models

Every business is unique; therefore, every leadership development program should be too. In this phase, we work with the existing executive team to design leadership competency models that will ensure successor(s) are correctly chosen, prepared, and ultimately transitioned into his or her new role. These models:

  • Define how next-generation leaders will be chosen
  • Articulate who will decide
  • Document the selection criteria
  • Establish a realistic timeline

Competency models are unique to every business, but each follows a common theme: Experience is the only teacher that matters when it comes to leading a business. Knowing this, we can build a developmental roadmap that provides potential leaders the opportunities to build that experience. These roadmaps include quantifiable competency objectives that are used to measure the progress of a candidate and identify gaps or coaching opportunities.

By beginning with competency models rather than launching a large-scale development program, existing leadership can come into alignment with one another on exactly what good candidates look like, what their individual responsibilities are, and what next steps are required in order to position the business for future success.

Establish Exposure Rotations

Often, high-potential talent have had only limited exposure to critical areas of the business – only leading the sales team, for instance, without insight into supply chain and purchasing or HR. If this person is to eventually climb the ranks and provide oversight to all of these departments, this limited exposure becomes hazardous. Therefore, it is imperative that next-generation leaders experience each area of management: product, people, operations, and commercial.

As outlined in the competency models, potential next-generational leaders complete rotations working side-by-side with teams in each area of the business. These rotations vary in length depending on the needs of the business and the skills of the candidate, but he or she spends at least 3 months as a member of each team.

While other leadership development programs may teach the “hard skills” associated with a department or provide opportunities to “shadow” employees, neither of these provide the hands-on education that full-time rotations do. In addition to spending time in management in those areas of the business, we encourage that candidates participate in the “day-to-day” operations as well. These departmental rotations help candidates develop the skills, context, and empathy it takes to ultimately lead them. They can be challenging at times, but ultimately equip candidates to become the capable leaders a business needs to succeed into the next generation.

Throughout the rotation process, next-generation talent is coached by a member of our transition team against the competency model to ensure we stay on track with the established timelines and objectives and avoid distractions.

Leading the Business into the Next Generation

Preparing the next generation of leadership in a business is one of – if not the – most important effort owners can engage in as they consider retirement and transition. This process takes time, but when done correctly, candidates emerge with better business skills, increased emotional and operational intelligence, stronger relationships with management and employees, and a greater stake in the future success of the organization.

As owners look back at their own journey of leadership, they will often see that it was those things – the ability to build relationship, the instinctual understanding of their business, the deep-seeded sense of purpose and drive – that ultimately led to the success they have been so fortunate to enjoy. And now, they can rest confidently knowing the next-generation men and women who will lead it into the future have what it takes too.

If you’d like to learn more about our next-generation leadership development programs, schedule a free advisory call with a member of our team today.