Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sink or Swim Organization?

Harvard Business Online just published an article that points out some very useful and typical characteristics that organizations use to find out how employees will transition into leadership roles if promoted, and how they foster these tranisitions.

Sink or Swim?
  • While the company may do a reasonable job of deciding who to recruit and promote, little or nothing is done to help leaders make successful transitions. Regardless of the magnitude of the challenges transitioning leaders face, they are left to figure out their new roles by themselves.

This really is not the best way to help your organization remain successful or foster a nourishing learning environment for the personel. In addition, if the roles aren't defined, how can they begin to do the right job?

  • Senior leadership believes that it’s best to test leaders by fire in order to separate the good from the bad. Respected executives perceive efforts to support leaders making transitions as “coddling” or worry that it will blunt the company’s edge in some way.

Testing by fire is a way to burn someone out. I've been there. If the organization wants to establish any culture of leadership, testing by fire is not the route to go.

  • The organization makes little effort to help leaders hired from the outside understand the culture of the company or to make the right connections with key stakeholders. Most of the emphasis in the recruiting process is placed on evaluating people for raw capability, and relatively little attention is given to cultural fit or adaptability.

Hire for attitude. For example, person A seems to have the picture perfect resume, 4.0 and a last name of a former politician. They get hired. But then on the job, they don't fit in at all, aren't open to learning, etc. Case in point. Hire people who are sponges.

  • External hires often are placed in situations where they are set up to fail. Newly hired executives are told, for example, that they are being brought in for their ability to bring new ideas to the company, encouraged to try to make change happen, but not adequately supported or protected.

We like your new ideas and your flair. You're hired. But once you start we don't have the time to listen to them, or resources to make them work. This is sometimes what happens - definite sinking factor.

  • Executive coaching is viewed as remedial rather than developmental. The only people who get coaching, if anyone gets it, are the ones already in serious trouble.

Think about the last time you received footlocker or executive coaching. Was it for a positive or negative behavior? Imagine if you got caught doing something right.

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