We work with a lot of organizations who are focused on developing their talent.  Many leaders see this as ‘promoting’ talent; boosting your best performers up to the next rung on the ladder.  Undoubtedly this is important, and we know that it is a desirable outcome, but what if there are not enough rungs on the ladder?  What if the next level roles are not available?  Do you stop developing your team?

As a leader, you need to think more broadly about how you are developing the talent on your team.  According to the Corporate Executive Board, there are five roles that you, as a leader, need to play in developing your talent.  Getting them on the next rung of the ladder is just one.

Performance Advisor

This is where you play the role of the coach.  Helping your team find the answers for themselves.  This role requires you to both actively listen and ask the right questions to help the individual develop.  It also requires the right mindset; that of “let me show you how smart you are” versus “let me show you how smart I am”.  Consider this role the next time your top talent asks you for your guidance.

Relationship Broker

Here the role you play is in connecting the talent on your team with the right relationships.  Who is important for them to know?  Which influential leader can you introduce them to?  The goal here is to expand the network of your talent and help establish the support system that will facilitate their success as they grow within the organization.  Don’t underestimate the power that this network can play in developing talent.

Experience Broker  

Sometimes in a desperate effort to quiet the requests for development, we haphazardly give top talent exposure to many experiences.  This sometimes feels like “the better you are, the harder you need to work”.  The key here is to deliberately ensure that the projects and assignments, provided within role, optimize learning.  As a leader, you need to help mine their current jobs and responsibilities for these essential development opportunities.

Experience Optimizer

Once you have taken the time to scope an exceptional project or help your direct report deliver a success through your outstanding coaching, you need to take it to the next level.  You, as the leader, need to help your developing talent take the most from experiences by providing an opportunity to both reflect on what they learned and internalize how it might apply going forward.  Creating a safe environment for your talent to learn from past experiences is an essential, and often ignored tool, in enabling development.

Career Champion  

Enabling your top talent to progress up the ladder is still a key part of your role.  Helping your team see new roles as opportunities, helping others see the potential of your direct reports and being a champion for their promotion is a role that many of us like to play.  However, this cannot be the only development role you are focused on if you want to do right by your top talent.

Now you know the breadth of a leader’s role in developing talent.  You know that it is more than just securing a promotion.  You know that fewer rungs in the ladder or unavailable rungs does not mean a lack of development opportunities for your team.  With this new insight in mind, I would like you to consider the following:

  1. Which role are you playing as a leader right now?
  2. Which role should you be playing?
  3. What are you going to do about it?

For additional insights on Talent Development, please contact Lighthouse NINE Group.

Marnie Smith
Lighthouse NINE Group
One Eva Road, Suite 209 | Etobicoke, ON M9C 4Z5
Office: 416-607-6919

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