It’s not easy being a leader.
The challenges they face today are immense. And while many leaders are highly skilled, many say they are often overwhelmed or feel ill-prepared to lead key business functions such as marketing, sales, operations, strategy, technology and human resources. They often are challenged to balance day-to-day pressures with the need to think more broadly and strategically about the business. This means being prepared to handle the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Chief learning officers can boost function leaders’ performance, prepare them for future challenges and increase organizational impact by:
1. Creating focus. Leaders already have a lot to do. What one or two things can best support these leaders and their challenges?
2. Engaging the senior team. Include the CEO and board to develop an overall leadership strategy aligned with the business strategy. Few organizations do this well, and the payoff is high.
3. Considering company culture, key talent and structural design. What capabilities are needed, now and in the future? Help leaders assess talent and determine strengths and gaps. Encourage cross-organizational collaboration where possible.
4. Taking a critical look at reward systems. Do they line up with the desired organizational culture and strategy? Often, short-term individual results are rewarded over larger strategic priorities.Reward systems should encourage near- and longer-term results and encourage critical competencies.
5. Establishing feedback opportunities. As leaders move up in the organization, they tend to get less honest feedback. CLOs can create mechanisms to develop a culture for feedback to assist functional leaders in seeking, giving and responding to feedback.
6. Leveraging experienced leaders for guidance. Provide support for internal and external mentor relationships to ensure leaders long-term success.
7. Being deliberate. Introduce development experiences to better prepare functional leaders and increase their breadth and depth of experience. Identify any on-the-job experiences or short-term assignments that will get them ready for more responsibility and leading multiple functions.
To prepare senior leaders for the future, CLOs should consider the following ideas:
Help functional leaders gain strategic perspective. Extend the leaders’ responsibilities to oversee several functional areas. Help the leader learn what they can let go of, delegate or de-emphasize to balance strategic and tactical responsibilities. Often, functional leaders will spend time on their area of expertise and short-term results, but they can contribute more as they expand their scope.
Look for mentors. Use experienced executives as mentors; they can focus on the most important skills for success at this level: executive communications, execution and results, influence, strategic perspective and working across boundaries. Select mentors within the organization and provide mentor training to increase the likelihood of success and sustained relationships. Work with partners in other functional areas inside and outside the organization, including board members.
Reinforce self-awareness and learning agility. With rapid change and global complexities, self-awareness can help functional leaders understand their strengths and development needs, work to improve, and ultimately be more effective. Learning agility can help leaders face new challenges and build new relationships when facing unfamiliar and rapidly changing situations.
Create internal and external opportunities. These can develop key leadership competencies. Internal development helps leaders learn more about the organization, expand their networks, strengthen communications and influence others. External opportunities can increase capabilities in areas such as strategic perspective, leading globally and innovation. Ideally, these experiences can help leaders gain insights from other industries, cultures, regions and functions.
CLOs are function leaders, too. They also have to focus on their own development because they lead a critical function, and others look to them as champions and role models for critical areas of strength as well as areas for further development. Growing talent is strategic to an organization’s success, and the CLO plays a key role in achieving this success.Filed under: Strategy