The question many businesses ask themselves is 'are leaders born or made'? Many believe the former and spend fortunes on recruitment searching the market for those natural born leaders. There are those blessed with innate leadership traits, but they are few and far between.
Behavioural experts believe that people become leaders through the process of learning and application. Leadership being a set of skills that can be learned by training, practice and experience.
And yet businesses find themselves searching for natural leaders and turning a blind eye to the hard work and investment required to grow their own talent.
The rewards of investing in growing your own leadership talent are significant and touch every point of the organisation, from employee performance and engagement, to customer experience and ultimately shareholder value.
Just what are the skills and capabilities required then of these leaders worthy of investment?
For your leaders to be successful and create an efficient, effective and inspiring environment for their teams, they must have the necessary mindset and skills to grow talent, improve performance and provide clear unambiguous guidance and steps needed to deliver the strategic goals.
This means they must develop a keen self-awareness and hone the skills of an effective team builder, coach, communicator, performance diagnostic expert, problem solver, inspirer and be able to cut through the noise and prioritise steps that will lead to individual and collective success.
This is easier said than done when the external demands on the business are so high in our hyper competitive and transparent market. Where do you start, how do you prioritise what, who to develop and how?
Coaching provides the opportunities for leaders to have an honest appraisal of their own capabilities and can identify strengths to amplify and shortfalls to address, in priority order, which are inadvertently and often unconsciously holding themselves and their people back.
On a practical level, coaching helps leaders to form strategic plans, face up to challenging situations and explore ways of leading and best practices that they may never have considered previously, leading to step change in their performance.
When you have a leadership team firing on all cylinders, fully aware of, and owning, their own development needs, you create an environment where everyone can succeed.
To ensure we fully recognised the investment we were making in our salesforce and to realise their fullest potential, it was imperative that our sales managers and leaders possessed the right skills and behaviours to support the salesforce through the changes. For some it was about developing new skills and for others it was about enhancing what they already knew. But for all of them it was about setting a very clear direction of what was needed in their role and adopting a winning approach.
Under the theme Creating a High Performance Sales Culture I created a development programme for sales managers which was designed to provide clear understanding of the responsibilities of our managers and leaders and to provide guidance and tools to support them to maximise the performance of their sales teams.
The programme consisted of a series of workshops focusing on capabilities such as coaching and performance management. To start with we ran a series of Sales Manager Development Centres. The development centres were designed to provide an accurate, actionable measure of our managers’ capabilities and their potential to develop. Over 90 sales managers attended the development centres. Focused development was put in place to support three key behavioural areas that were identified as development needs from the behavioural framework; Growing Talent, Improving Performance and Processing Information. Individual development plans were also produced.
As part of the programme I launched a coaching initiative to embed the learning from the whole programme. This initiative proved very successful and was a finalist nomination at the 2011 National Sales Awards.