You’ve been having a great year at work. Both your and your team’s job performance has soared through the roof. You know that a key to your overall success is due to the work from one of your “star” employees, named “Amy.”
During a meeting with Human Resources, you are asked to nominate a person for the company’s leadership program, and you happily nominate Amy.
Your first reaction is excitement that one of your most deserving team members will be in the program. But as you leave the meeting, a sinking feeling creeps into your gut.
You are thinking to yourself, “What more do they really expect from me to support Amy? What am I going to tell the other team members about Amy’s selection? I know the team will be happy for Amy, but are they going to want to know why they weren’t also selected? And how does Amy’s work get covered while she is away for days at a time in this program? Geez, what should I be doing next?”
I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been a Corporate leader who had to identify and support the development of the star performers in my organization. I’ve also been a consultant who’s had to train and coach other executives, people managers, and mentors on how to effectively do the same.
Here are the first 4 things to immediately do if you have a direct report selected for a leadership program:
1. Get crystal clear on your “role”
There is no job description for “Manager of a Leadership Program Participant” . . . although there should be.
Start by asking the head of the Leadership Program if a detailed “roles and responsibilities” document exists. If it does, ask for a list of deadlines of when each task must be completed, how each task will be tracked, and what does success look like when each task is completed.
Why? Because you are being evaluated on your success of supporting the company’s next-gen talent and if you don’t know how you are being evaluated, how can you succeed? Not succeeding can impact your performance review rating, compensation, and future job opportunities.
If a roles and responsibilities document does not exist, then go on a crusade to come up with one yourself. Ask all stakeholders involved this one question, “What do you think are the top 2 ways I can best support my leadership program participant?” Who are your stakeholders? Your participant, the leadership program manager, your boss, human resources, your peers, past program participants etc. You’ll be surprised how helpful people are when you just ask.
2. Validate the right “talking points”
Your company likely has a position on how much transparency to have around the company’s leadership program. Some have full transparency, where they freely communicate who’s in it and what the program is all about. Other companies prefer to be more guarded with this information.
Find out where your company stands and which talking points to use when communicating to both your program participant and your broader organization. Understand how and if you should publicly celebrate your participant’s selection. The last thing you want to do is put a damper on team morale because of inconsistent messaging.
3. Prepare yourself for ongoing critical decision-making
Leadership program participants are selected and developed in the hopes that they will grow to do bigger and better things in the organization. That means that there is a high probability of eventually some sort of movement to a new role in the future.
When you have a leadership program participant, it is important that you begin preparing now for major decisions that might come your way. For example, begin thinking how to support getting work done while your participant is away from the office. Privately, start researching candidates to potentially backfill your participant’s job, should they get transferred or promoted to another area in the company.
Be proactive vs reactive to ensure your organization is set up for future success.
4. Respect your personal emotions
It’s tough and scary to be a leader of someone crowned by the company as a potential “future leader”. How do you manage someone who may soon become your peer or even eventually pass you in the ranks? You may even wonder why you weren’t selected for a leadership program designed for your level. Makes you feel some kind of way, right?
Know that these type of emotions are both healthy and natural. Once you name and respect your personal emotions, you can then work on addressing them in a way that excites and fulfills you. But this is a process which should be separated from your accountabilities to support your program participant. Don’t hold your participant back due to personal insecurities.
You are there to ensure that they grow from interesting and challenging work and are making the biggest impact that they can. Understand what drives them and coach them how to match that drive to what the organization currently needs. Praise them when they do good. Coach them when they need to course correct.
By doing this, you will not only allow their brilliance to shine, but your brilliance will shine as well. Someone will notice that brilliance of yours, so don’t be surprised when you get called into a meeting to learn a new door of opportunity has been opened for you too!
I’d love to help prepare your leaders to better support, develop, and retain your leadership talent. Here’s how.
P.S. If you liked this post, I have a sneaky suspicion that you may be interested in joining our community of career-savvy ultra-achievers!
Karan Ferrell-Rhodes is the Founder of Shockingly Different Leadership, a leadership development consultancy that develops both in-house and external leadership programs which transform high potential leaders into “ultra-achievers” in their organization. Don’t forget to ask about our strategic consulting, coaching packages, assessments, mentoring programs, and leadership labs!