The Six Biggest Talent Mistakes CEOs Make

Troubled ExecutiveThe executive search industry is rapidly growing due to the demand for leadership talent. The demand for top leadership talent is outpacing the supply of quality leaders. Perhaps the single biggest contributing factor is the lack of leadership development occurring in corporate America, thus the deficit.

In 2014, one of the key industry trends Executive Search Firm President Todd Hohauser continually see is the desire for companies to establish succession planning. At Harvey Hohauser and Associates, we get more and more requests for “lieutenants” or strong #2 leaders positioned to take over the #1 role.  This type of succession planning allows companies the opportunity to place a trained “tried and true” leader and take advantage of the experiences and success they have had in their careers.

Mistake #1

Leaders get promoted for the wrong reasons. The cause is primarily driven by why people get promoted thru the ranks. Leaders at all levels are often promoted from one level in an organization to the next level because of how well they are liked and how well they performed in their current position, not because they possess the skills and knowledge to perform at a high level in the new position; this is a bad assumption. Too much emphasis is placed on the past.

Mistake #2

Far too many organizations do not have an accurate description of what a “top performer” looks like. The real data needed should include past 360 evaluation information, updated job descriptions, including specific clarity about the key responsibilities and performance metrics for all management positions. The wrong data is used to make the promoting talent decision, so decision makers are clogging their leadership pipeline with people that may not be a top performer at the next level, in part because of their “promoting talent” system is not well designed.

Mistake #3

Lack of preparation forces organizations to make three costly assumptions. Because inside most companies their “leadership development system” is not forward and experiential, they simply assume every manager promoted will stop performing like they did in their last job, assume they will be willing to learn how to be a leader at the next level. They also assume the newly promoted Director or Vice President will be successful tackling more complex business issues, be more strategic and less tactical, while now collaborating with other executives.

Mistake #4

Far too many executives have become too tolerant of leaders at all three levels with managers or executives that are not top performers. It does beg the question, why do so many companies allow their management team to have some resemblance of a traditional spread of 10-20% A performers, 20-30% B performers, 50-60% of them C performers and 5-10% are below average performers. This natural distribution or bell curve is the result of executive’s unwillingness to address the hard facts that they have participated and allowed their entire management team to have far too many average performers. The facts are clear, any company with a similar bell curve problem can not and will not be an industry leading company with high profits.

Mistake #5

Too many CEO’s and executives are not willing to devote the time and money to design a leadership development system. In top performing companies, they invest in developing leadership talent and their company’s future with examples such as: newly created positions that are specifically created as a developmental assignment, provide executive education for select leaders, provide executive coaching and or a systematic leadership training curriculum.

Mistake #6

Too many CEOs assume that developing current and future leaders is a Human Resource issue. Developing leaders is an executive issue of ownership, not something you assign to Human Resources.

Summary: An organization will never outperform its management team. As the CEO, you naturally only have three choices. You can either:

  1. Tolerate the current performance of your management team
  2. Partner with an executive search firm to go find and buy new leadership talent
  3. Develop the leadership talent you already have on the payroll.

The final big question: are you willing to find a leadership development expert to help you change your company’s future? Or will you keep doing what you are doing and expecting different results?

John Lankford

John Lankford was recognized as the 2007-2010 Associate Business Advisor of the Year in North America and brings proven executive experience and best practices to select companies every year. He served 18 years at the Executive Education Center at Ford Motor Company and is former Senior Director of Ascension Health Learning Institute. John has developed top leaders around the world in partnership with the University of Michigan Business School, the Center for Creative Leadership, Comcast University and GE University, to name a few. His business expertise has been tapped by prominent business media such as the New York Times, CBS and Dbusiness magazine and has been a syndicated business columnist. He is the author of The Answer is Leadership and Superstar for life…Career Transitions. John’s keynote speaking has landed him on the elite team that trains and certifies the new Executive Coaches joining the worldwide coaching community. John is also former Chief Executive Officer of the Innisbrook Leadership Institute. Lankford can be reached at [email protected] or call (888) 730-1950

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