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How to identify your future leaders and build a long-term plan for them within your company

In today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s crucial to have strong leaders who can drive your company forward. So, identifying those leaders and building a plan to develop their skills is key to ensuring long-term success. However, it’s not always easy to spot future leaders, nor is it easy to know how to nurture them effectively without alienating others. 

In this blog post, with insight from SME Coach Julian Roberts and Gayle Tong of Enrichment Coaching, we’ll explore some strategies for identifying and developing future leaders, ways to avoid alienating other employees, and what a typical development plan might look like. So settle in, grab a coffee, and let’s get started.

Identifying future leaders

The first question is when should you start looking for future leaders? The answer? The day they start at your company. Spotting talent from the outset will enable you to groom them for leadership roles within your organisation. 

Julian comments: “A company should be proactive in its talent management and organisational design, planning the needs of the business with the needs of the people within it.”

Gayle adds: “Future leaders should always be part of your succession plan. You may not have recruited them for a leadership role but understanding their aspirations will ultimately be helpful.” 

But how do you spot these future leaders?

According to Julian, the first step is to develop a criteria for what you think leadership is within your organisation and then look for it within the people you have.

“They may start demonstrating leadership behaviours as part of their role – for me that’s the time to have the conversation, understanding what they want and then where you can help them work towards it,” says Gayle.

Look for people who display qualities such as ambition, initiative, and the ability to work well with others. These individuals are often self-starters who take on additional responsibilities and look for opportunities to expand their skills. Additionally, they are more likely to have a high level of emotional intelligence and a positive attitude.

Gayle adds to look for someone “who sees the bigger picture, they understand the strategic vision and can articulate to others how that will be achieved. They live the values of the business and help others to do the same.” However, she adds, “Simply filling a gap? It has to be the right person for the role, not just a person to fill a gap, someone is good at what they do, doesn’t mean they will make a good / leader or manager – you risk demotivating them and others in the process.”

Avoiding alienation

Identifying and developing future leaders shouldn’t come at the expense of other employees. It’s important to ensure that everyone in your company feels valued and has opportunities for growth. Otherwise, you may end up losing talent due to resentment or frustration.

One way to avoid alienating other employees is to create a culture of continuous improvement. This involves setting clear expectations, providing regular feedback, and offering development opportunities for all employees. Julian says, “Be open-minded, engage with others, listen to others, and be interested in what others are doing.” Emphasise that everyone has a role to play in driving the company forward, and recognise those who contribute to team success.

Coaching and supporting future leaders

Once you’ve identified future leaders, it’s time to develop their skills. However, it’s important not to overwhelm them with extra work or unrealistic expectations. Instead, provide them with targeted coaching and support to build their skills gradually.

Gayle suggests working to understand how they like to be managed, and how they like to work. She says, “Be honest with your expectations and ask them what their expectations are of you.  Providing them with an external coach would be beneficial as they then have the confidential space to share, offload and work things through with someone who is unbiased.” She continues, “When offering this support it’s important as a Line Manager that you allow them the time for this without question.  Having a mentor may also work, someone they can learn from who has been in their position and can share best practice.” 

In his role as a coach, Julian seeks ongoing live examples to support those he is mentoring. “I use these opportunities for a learning loop and to perhaps challenge some thinking that is not serving them anymore.” Then from that he creates an action plan of the insight for them to execute.

Another way to support is to offer leadership development programmes that focus on specific skills such as communication, strategic thinking, and conflict resolution. Give them opportunities to practice what they’ve learned in a safe environment, such as role-playing sessions or team-building activities. 

Building a development plan

Creating a development plan for future leaders is key to ensuring a structured and successful growth path. This plan should include short and long-term goals, specific skills to develop, and opportunities for learning and growth. It should also be tailored to each individual and their unique strengths and weaknesses. In fact, Gayle recommends that it is developed together with the employee taking the lead.

Julian adds, “I would tend to do a 3-way conversation with the coachee and line manager to understand the key outcomes that all want to achieve. I would get the coachee to write down three or four key outcomes/intentions for the coaching engagement.” He would then run a number of sessions based on the focus of the outcomes desired.

In the absence of a coach, a typical development plan could include on-the-job training, leadership courses, mentoring, and stretch assignments.  You must ensure that the plan is then regularly reviewed and adapted as needed based on progress and feedback.

Keeping them on track

Of course, how do you keep them committed to the company after investing so much in their growth? Read our guide on tackling this here. In Gayle’s opinion, “I believe it’s better to provide them with the development they need and they leave having had a great experience, rather than staying and becoming demotivated and with the lack of development believing that because they haven’t had the opportunities they aren’t valued.” Who knows? By moving on with happy memories of you as an employer, they could potentially become an advocate for your business and help you recruit other superstars. 

Identifying and developing future leaders is critical to the long-term success of any business. By starting early, avoiding alienation, coaching and supporting leaders, and creating a tailored development plan, you can build a strong bench of talent that will drive your organisation forward. Remember that everyone has the potential to be a leader, and it’s up to us as business owners and managers to provide the tools and support necessary for success. With the right strategies and a little bit of effort, you can cultivate the next generation of leaders that will take your company to the next level.

For more help in setting succession and development plans, Lodge Court HR consultancy is here to help. Get in touch with us today.

And thanks again to Gayle Tong and Julian Roberts for their support in writing this article.

You can learn more about their services via the links below:

Julian Roberts of Julian Roberts Consulting:

Julian Roberts, an Executive Leadership Coach with a background in commercial and sales, is passionate about people, resiliency, and business. He has held a number of senior strategic commercial positions for multinational corporations such as Heinz, Yoplait, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as for family-owned businesses. In 2017, he launched his coaching practice, working with individuals and teams from various industries, including food, FMCG, retail, media, engineering, financial services, legal, construction, and medical.

As Julian and his practice have evolved over time, his focus has been on helping leaders and teams become resilient, not only to withstand challenges or adversity but to grow stronger in the face of them. 

Gayle Tong of Enrichment Coaching:

Gayle empowers people to take action through the exploration of clarity, courage and confidence for a more enriched life. Her vision is to live in a world where people are confident to be the best authentic version of themselves everyday.

She runs a number of courses in self-confidence as well as coaching sessions.