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When Planning for Leadership Succession, Focus on the Talent

Planning for Leadership Succession

During your strategic sessions, when planning for leadership succession, focus on the talent. Succession planning is on everyone’s top strategic objectives. And you must choose the right successors for each leadership position. The leadership team comprises of a variety of talent, skill, and experience. So how do you choose successors to the top-level leaders successfully?
Below are five talents to look for as you look for successors to the top positions of your organization:

The Talent of Leadership.

You can argue that leaders are born or made. I believe it’s both. The best leaders are those who are naturally good influencers of people which is the top talent to look for in your senior leadership team. Leaders take the initiative to lead. They are excellent decision makers with the information they have available at the time. They also own their decisions and consequences of those decisions.
Influential leaders don’t “tell” others what to do. They “coach” others to discover the answers for themselves. Top leaders must trust their employees that they know how to perform the job the company hired them to do.
Lastly, it is crucial to understand the difference between leadership and management. Leaders impart the vision to others. Managers execute the vision. Leadership is a talent. Management is a skill. The best leaders are also successful managers. Top leaders must be willing to develop their leadership talent and to enhance their management skills.

The Talent of Communication.

The talent of communication includes the ability to communicate well in every area and in a variety of ways. Good communicators are well spoken and can also communicate successfully in writing. They have the common sense to discern when an in-person conversation is better than an email or voice mail based on the circumstances. They choose words wisely to ensure others understand the message correctly and avoid misunderstandings or hurting other people’s feelings.
Excellent communicators listen well and repeat what others say to ensure they understood the message. Leaders who possess this talent mold their communication style to others’ styles to ensure a successful interaction. They take the initiative to understand the communication style of those they interact with and confront situations as they arise.

The Talent of Strategic.

Top leadership must be strategic about the future on how to direct the company’s endeavors. Collaborating with the other top leaders as a team, leaders make decisions that impact all stakeholders. People who possess the Strategic talent, according to the CliftonStrengths themes, create alternative ways to proceed after they explore at all the options.
Even when a company has a vision, without strategy at the top level of leadership, the company wonders around and does not accomplish its goals nor the vision. As a strategic team, they select members based on the knowledge gaps and needs of the team. It is crucial for the future success of the organization to choose the right successors for the top positions of the company.

The Talent of Includer.

Not one person can lead an organization without consulting and including the rest of the team—not even the CEO. Therefore, it is imperative for a Senior Leadership Team to look for leaders who include others in the decision-making process and that listen to others’ perspectives and points of view. Just as important, once a decision is made, whether everyone agreed or not, the team must support the decision.
According to the CliftonStrengths themes, those who possess the talent of includer simply “accept others.” Even though this talent is important, on one hand, the team must ensure the entire staff is represented at the leadership level. On the other hand, they must ensure that confidential information does not get out prematurely to the staff in an effort to “include everyone.” Doing so can present legal risks to the company if they share information that is not appropriate to be shared until the right time.

The Talent of Responsibility.

Top leaders must accept the huge responsibility it is to lead others. Some people only want the title but don’t want to take on the additional responsibilities that go with the title. Ensure your C-Level leaders embrace and own the responsibility given to them. They hold each other accountable.
Leaders with the talent of responsibility get things done. And precisely because they do what they say, they typically don’t understand others who don’t follow through. For them this is inconceivable. That’s when the communication gift comes in handy to understand others who don’t possess that talent and talk about it.
I will leave you with these related questions as you search for successors:

  • How deep is your talent pool? Could you find successors to the top leadership positions internally?
  • Are you focusing on depth of talent to include talent, skill, experience, and expertise to fill the open seats?
  • Are you looking for people who share your core values and the skills to match the business needs?

Succession planning is a great way to introduce new set of skills and expertise you may have been missing in the past. Therefore, when planning for leadership succession, focus on the talent. I hope searching for these five talents in your top leaders’ successors helps you form a successful team.

Six Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement

Six Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement

Increased employee engagement is one of the top strategic objectives for many institutions so we’d like to share six strategies to increase employee engagement. As we facilitate strategic planning sessions for our clients, they often share the concern that their employees are not as engaged as they would want them to be. This topic is important enough to the senior leadership team that we spend significant amount of time discussing strategies to increase employee engagement.

In this blog, we provide six strategies to increase employee engagement. We answer some of the most common questions institutions have about the subject.

What does “employee engagement” mean to your organization?

The word engagement has several meanings. But in the context of employee engagement, it means involvement, commitment, obligation, and pledge. Companies that share the core belief of strong employee engagement want their team members to embrace that important core belief. They want employees to feel like they belong with the company—that they are part of the family.

One main reason why company leaders want increased employee engagement is because engaged employees tend to stay with the company longer than unengaged employees. Employee longevity is a key ingredient in the success of any company because it creates a sense of stability for other employees and for customers.

Strategy #1: Communicate to your employees what employee engagement means to you and why it’s important for them to become engaged. Embrace engagement as one of your core values and communicate it in writing and verbally with all your employees—consistently.

How do you create an environment that invites employee engagement?

Engagement starts at the top. An engaged Board of Directors sets the tone for the rest of the organization. When Directors meet with examiners at the safety and soundness exam exit meetings, it sends a message to the regulators and employees alike that Directors care about the institution. Directors who show up to company gatherings and socialize with the regular staff, communicate that they are part of the team.

Most community banks and credit unions engage with their communities—thus their name “community bank” or “community credit union.” Therefore, employees have plenty of opportunities to also involve themselves in the planned activities. In addition, employees can also serve on nonprofit boards located in their own towns or join the local chamber of commerce. Anything that the organization participates in opens a door for their employees to join in.

Strategy #2: Create opportunities for your employees to engage with you as an organization and with your community. Then communicate to everyone via your Intranet, monthly staff meetings, emails, and every other way you have available, so everybody is in the know. 

What are the benefits of an engaged team?

There are plenty of benefits an engaged team brings to a company. When employees engage with the organization and with their teams, you experience significantly low turnover. Often employees don’t leave a company because their friends are there. Other times, they truly enjoy the community activities the organization supports. In addition, employees stay with their employer when they see a career path for them and a future with the company.

Employees who are involved and committed benefit too. When employees engage with others in the company or participate in the community, they make lifelong friendships, get to know their coworkers, and learn new skills.

Strategy #3: Make a list of all the benefits that employees gain from being engaged with the company and communicate it to them. Emphasize not only that employee engagement is a company core value but also what they gain personally by being engaged.

How do you change the culture to inspire employees to become more engaged?

The Board of Directors and senior leadership drive the culture of the organization. A new employee cannot change the culture. He or she needs to only embrace it. The company provides opportunities for employees to engage internally and externally with the community. However, the employee chooses to get involved voluntarily.

Strategy #4: Increase participation at the top. The leadership team must be engaged themselves—with the company and with one another. Create new opportunities including internal committees for employees to lead and communicate to all staff.

Strategy #5: Enhance your Talent Management Program by establishing career paths, leadership development, and clear ways for employees to get involved. You communicate these activities to all staff through demonstration and sharing verbally and in writing.

How do you motivate unengaged employees even when you provide plenty of opportunities?

Unfortunately, there are people that no matter what you do as a leadership, they won’t get involved. They have the right to not get involved nor engaged. With those employees, you need to respect their decision and understand that precisely because they are not engaged, they may be the ones to leave the company sooner than later. Let them go.

Strategy #6: Hire the right people from the start. During the interview process, ask the right questions to ensure employees are willing and able to participate in company and community activities. Communicate that you expect them to become engaged from the start.

I hope you noticed the theme to communicate with your employees your desire and expectation for them to engage with the company’s internal activities as well as the community you serve. Implementing these six strategies to increase employee engagement allows you to create a culture of engagement.

Books by Marcia Malzahn