Technology, strategy and systems are critical to organizational success, but the most important investments leaders make are in people. Many leaders want to develop their talent, but don’t for various reasons. Yet according to the Center for Creative Leadership, organizations that invest in leadership development perform better than those that don’t.
A major challenge companies confront is maintaining a pipeline of candidates ready to step into roles of greater responsibility. Novartis, the $58 billion life sciences company, has invested in leader-led development and seen impressive results. In 2002, faced with developing a steady stream of talent prepared for leadership, the company set out to accelerate succession decision quality and develop high-potential leaders.
The issue was critical. The company was recruiting 58 percent of its talent from outside the organization. By 2005, that number dropped to 30 percent and remains there today as the company continues its succession and development programs. Novartis has saved millions of dollars in recruiting; millions more were leveraged to produce and sustain results. The company’s commitment to pausing to develop key talent has created a base of self-aware, influential leaders whose focus extends beyond individual results to concern for the team and broader enterprise. Leaders not only learn about their talent; they gain insight into their own capabilities.
For leadership growth to endure and transform, three pauses need to merge: build awareness, commitment and practice. If all three are present and inform one another, breakthroughs will occur and growth will be sustained.
Pause 1: Build awareness: The greatest task of pausing for awareness is in the interpersonal domain. People problems are typically complex, yet when people in conflict come to leaders with concerns, leaders often slip into a knee-jerk reaction and look for a transactive fix.
To help people grow, it is best to avoid the expert role. Instead, pause to help people sort things out. Build awareness through questions and listening so others can distill internal or external challenges. Leaders might ask:
• Tell me more about yourself. What are your challenges andâ€Š issues?
• Had you taken another approach, how could you see yourself in a new light?
Pause 2: Build commitment: Awareness increases possibility for higher-level performance. However, awareness and insight are not enough. If they were, people wouldn’t have the same New Year’s resolutions each year. Enduring effectiveness requires motivation born from emotional commitment. Building commitment begins with helping people consider the consequences of their actions. But, intellectual understanding is not enough. Leaders need to help people feel and experience a deep emotional connection to a behavior’s impact to help them change that behavior permanently.
By guiding people to grasp the life-enriching and life-damaging consequences of current behaviors, leaders help them feel the creative tension between where they want to end up and where they are headed. Helping people to envision alternative futures and make new choices is the essence of building commitment. To develop deeper commitment the person has to see, feel and experience consequences, not just adopt someone else’s version.
Build commitment through questions and listening to facilitate clearer understanding of upside and downside consequences. Questions leaders might ask:
• What are the most compelling, positive reasons for you to do X?
• What will you and others lose if you don’t do X?
Pause 3: Build practice: Without practice, there is no transformation. Pausing to help others identify what to practice breathes vitality and momentum into awareness and commitment. People can be aware and committed to noble goals, but if leaders fail to give them consistent opportunities to practice new behaviors, it is like lighting a lamp and closing our eyes.
Build practice through questions and listening to encourage people to co-create practices that support growth. Leaders might ask:
• What small behavior could you do that would have the most beneficial impact for you and others?
• When will you begin? How often will you practice?
Growing oneself develops self-awareness and authenticity; the key development breakthrough in growing others is service and generativity. To be a generative leader, pause to accelerate the growth of others.
Kevin Cashman is a senior partner for Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting and a member of the firm’s board and CEO services practice. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.