The APQC Blog

Leadership Capabilities: How Do You Choose the Right Person to Lead?

Making sure that you have the right leaders in place is no easy or small feat. The essence of leadership is knowing the direction you desire to travel and having the ability to influence the head, hands, and heart of others to follow you there. Of these three, the heart is clearly the most important because it’s here that emotion, passion, and discretionary effort abide. It is the heart that promotes greatness.

It’s imperative to consider this when developing any process, especially your succession planning process. One of the first things is to determine your stakeholders. Never forget who the customer of the process will be. Take careful consideration of how your workforce feels your succession planning process performed. Listen with an open mind and gather their requirements for leaders. This also ensures support. If the trust for current leadership is low, any change to the structure invokes fear on the front lines. There is no certainty that we can dispel all fears, but a performance management system that takes these concepts into consideration potentially squashes the fear of individual contributors, keeps your leadership team healthy, and adequately prepares the next generation of leaders.

It is never good to see people promoted beyond their capability. A management concept known as the Peter Principle, explains this as promotion to the level of incompetence. Not many people will refuse a promotion when it is offered, so who is responsible? If you are at the hiring manager level or above, then you are responsible. Current leaders need to ensure they are doing right by those in succession planning and on the front line.

My experience in many succession planning processes, has led to the discovery of four steps that make a succession planning process easier for all involved. Hiring leaders from the outside is a topic for another day.

This isn’t a quick fix, quite the opposite – so consider this way before you intend to promote and as you design or redesign your performance management system.

Step 1: Know the Organization
What are your company’s defined values? This is fundamental. What behaviors do you want your leaders to exhibit that will be the model for the rest of the organization?

Think through your undefined values. It is unfortunate, but in some organizations values and behaviors are unaligned. For example, an organization says that integrity is a core value, but it is common knowledge that the top salesperson is openly unscrupulous. Even still, this person is continually celebrated as top salesperson, given freedom to choose their own schedule, and is the first to get leads. What does that tell your workforce? It tells them that making sales no matter what is the true core value. If that’s what you really want – why not be honest and say that? Trust is the basic building block of work, if your values don’t match your culture, then there is a misalignment and you may be disappointed with the leaders identified in your succession planning process.  

Your performance management system requires regular assessment of all employees’ affinity to live the organization’s core values. If you don’t inspect what you expect, it won’t be important to anyone. You have to create your learning and development programs around what is most important to you, so your high potentials know early on what behaviors are rewarded within your organization. This means you have regular discussions on how their behaviors do or do not demonstrate values.

This is the first blog in a series designed to offer practical advice on change management, the people side of process and performance management, frameworks, and strategy. The first set of blogs, including this one, will focus on advice around leadership succession and picking the right leaders for your organization or improvement teams. Stay tuned for the next installment which will explore key factors for understanding your potential leaders and their fit.

Jamie Capehart is an organizational excellence proponent that is passionate about people being the best they can be. Dreamer, doer, innovator. She is the manager of organizational development at The Goodway Group, APQC thought leader, and guest blogger. The views expressed here are from Jamie Capehart and do not reflect The Goodway Groups.

You can connect with Jamie on Linked In  or follower her on twitter, @jamiecapehart.