Your Leadership Pool: Sink or Swim?

Posted On: May 8, 2015 by: Doug Lundrigan

Is your company’s leadership pool, a puddle or a lake?

To have a deep lake, when is the best time to invest in talent development and trainblog1 training? When it comes to preparing your top performers to become leaders, which strategy does your company embrace:

• Promote ⇒ Develop & Train
• Develop & Train ⇒ Promote

Is it wise to wait to invest training dollars in order to weed out the bottom feeders and invest in top performers once they’ve been slotted into managerial positions? Or should companies invest in training top performers prior to giving that big promotion? The answers to these questions rest on one fundamental fact: The talents and skills that make an excellent leader are completely different than those that enabled top performance in the previous position.

Put simply: Present Success ≠ Promoted Success

Many companies fail to realize the shortcomings and consequences of not having a management development program in place for future leaders. Promoting top performers with no prior management experience can in fact be a recipe for disaster. Let’s take a look at Lisa, a consistent top sales achiever for a pharmaceutical company. Lisa had the opportunity to sit next to the national sales director at a meeting and, by impressing him with her unique and creative ideas for driving sales, was offered a regional sales manager position, despite not having any prior leadership training.

t1picUpon arrival to her new team, Lisa immediately relied on her sales skills and instincts, not possessing adequate leadership skills. She spent most of her time with the fun sales people chasing the big deals, instead of creating a team vision and goals, developing a strategy, or coaching her team members for better performance.

Lisa also had difficulty prioritizing tasks and, because she hadn’t learned how to delegate, her poor time management caused her to fall behind, along with her regional sales.

She was overwhelmed with “busy work,” and responded to problems with a “hair on fire” reaction. Within the first year of Lisa’s promotion to regional sales manager, once a top sales achiever, she was now discouraged and frustrated. She decided to leave the company, along with 70% of the original regional sales employees. That is a costly problem for a company to have.

All too often managers are typically top performing employees who have been promoted into management positions. They have incredible skills in their present position but insufficient management skills to justify a leadership position. In Lisa’s case, she did not fail the company, the company failed her in their talent development strategy.

Allow me to contrast Lisa’s experience with my own. I worked at a similar company with aspirations to become a leader within the organization. Early in my career I enrolled in the company’s management development program.
The criteria to be accepted into the leadership development program included consistent top 50% performance markers over at least two years. This motivated my performance to be continuously “Exceeds Expectations.” Under the advice of a mentor I took charge of my own development and enrolled in company-provided training courses, read leadership books, learned public speaking techniques, conflict management, communication skills, employee engagement, and related courses that inherently made me a better employee. The company had a checklist of development requirements and assessments to be passed before qualifying to be a leader. Because the company used these advanced talent development practices and invested in me early on, they not only retained, engaged, and improved a top performer but also produced a High Performance Leader. And because of these practices they had a deep pool of ready talent, in addition to myself, from which to select for promotion.
After some time I became a leader for the company. I was prepared and ready tolake_ontario_swim_powered_bypasta hit the ground running. With my new team we developed a vision, goals, strategy, and a standard of success. I led by example and possessed
many of the qualities of a true leader (no one’s perfect.)

I coached poor performers to positions of success. I had learned to “inspect what I expected” from my team and follow through accordingly.
We created a culture of accountability, which raised the bar for all of us. Not only did we achieve top 20% performance, I had earned the loyalty and affection of my team. Most importantly, I also invested in top performers by developing their talents to be ready for opportunities to be promoted.

The Message companies send by investing in early training and development programs reinforce a positive response in their employees. Employees who feel valued by their employer are much more likely to be passionate about their jobs and exhibit a strong drive to produce results. This in turn results in a high retention rate for the company. Additionally, an organization with a knowledgeable and passionate workforce will be significantly more successful than one with lackluster worker bees waiting for “quittin’ time”.

Implementing quality training is just as important as implementing early training.
According to master Dale Carnegie. “Cheap training will result in cheap work: quality employees require quality training programs”


Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 12.32.13 PMFortunately Lighthouse Leadership offers excellent training programs for management and leadership development. The classes and workshops we offer at Lighthouse are designed to improve your business, and fully leverage your most valuable asset – your people.

Applying my decades of experience and education I proudly work hand-in-hand with my strategic partners to serve businesses like yours in the development of your people, the improvement of processes and the management of performance.

Back to our original question: Is your leadership pool a puddle or a lake? It’s not going to become a lake unless you do something about it.

I am prepared, ready and poised to help your employees build their skills now to be the High Performance Leaders of the future for your company.

Contact Lighthouse Leadership today – the future is now!

Share this Article