Discover Your Untapped Talent Treasure Trove

By: Jessica Bigazzi Foster

Mention executive development and most people immediately think of a process aimed at helping a mid- or senior-level manager cultivate skills needed for promotion. Many are surprised to learn that individual growth is actually only one of the overall benefits of a well-planned executive-development program.

Rather than being triggered by any singular event in one person’s career, executive development should plug into a continuous monitoring of an organization’s overall leadership strength. Regular talent audits can confirm that key individuals are ready and capable to meet both current and future business requirements. By taking a proactive, holistic approach (customized to meet each company’s unique leadership needs), programs can be introduced that not only ensure the readiness of high-potential assets for future roles, but also accelerate the performance of incumbents. Properly designed, an executive-development program can determine how the entire talent pool of a business can contribute collectively to the organization’s long-term fiscal health.

Chief executive officers readily acknowledge that they need the right leaders in the right roles to deliver against the corporate strategy. The real purpose of a successful talent-management program is to help the CEO accomplish that goal. As you may imagine, that is a much more complex set of activities than the development of any one individual.

Having verified the CEO’s talent strategy, the first step in effecting a successful executive-development program is to accurately identify the strategic talent priorities and leadership criteria that will take the business where it needs to go. In other words, defining what good leadership looks like for this company now and in the future.

Once this leadership profile is established, the role of RHR International is to provide exceptional data to drive in-depth, honest, and candid conversations that identify critical capability and experience gaps. Only then do we build and implement customized development experiences that move individuals from the current to the desired future state. As true partners with the talent leader, we provide insight and an outside viewpoint to help shape perspectives and drive informed business-relevant decisions. With that kind of intimacy and feedback, executives in the leadership pipeline can move forward as opposed to having disconnected development conversations that are not aligned to an individual’s unique needs or the long-term realities of the business.

In other words, the organizational and individual components of the program are intertwined. Neither works or moves the process forward without the other. To be successful, the entire executive-development process should be viewed as a continuous loop:

  1. Define and adapt leadership imperatives that will drive the strategy
  2. Determine talent priorities that link to the leadership imperatives
  3. Collect objective data to create clarity on leadership capabilities
  4. Use data to identify and evaluate internal talent
  5. Align existing talent with critical priorities
  6. Implement custom development experiences to close critical gaps
  7. Identify strategic external hires to fill critical gaps
  8. Evaluate progress of the pipeline toward future needs
  9. Analyze evolving leadership needs given the business and market demands
  10. Repeat


The effort, time commitment, and candor required to drive a consistent leadership pipeline at the top should not be underestimated. Organizations that create a program for the continuous monitoring of their overall executive health will gain a strong competitive advantage.

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