Are You Developing Your (Necessary) Women Leaders?
Business is tough enough today without making it unnecessarily tougher. As CEO, then, are you doing everything possible to ensure that your business is successful and well positioned for the future? Are you ensuring that you have the fullest cadre of leaders? That’s likely to be up to you.
Leadership development starts with leadership behavior. It flows down from the top. That’s why it’s essential for you, as CEO, to consider the potential of your women and to groom some as leaders. These women ought to be visible to your various constituents, they ought to be fully engaged, and they should be working with you to make the kinds of decisions that are crucial now.
You probably know that leadership development is important, but you may also believe that you don’t have the time or the money to address that right now. I would suggest that this is JUST the time when you need to address it… that not doing so is short-sighted. Investing in leadership development, especially for women, is not something that requires a huge budget or sending someone off to a university for a week or two (valuable time out of the office that probably isn’t available right now). It starts with you, personally, with your behavior and the kinds of conversations you have with the women in your management.
There are several things you can do now to get started developing more women:
Have open and constructive conversations with your top women. Ask them about their aspirations and about the particular challenges they face. Listen to what they say. Some women may not be seem to be as obviously focused on career advancement than men … since they have to balance career + family obligations… but they do care about their careers. Don’t assume that a “mom” doesn’t want to get ahead with your company.
Look up: do you see a glass ceiling in your company? Have you heard about one? It will only take a hammer to smash it. It may be time to confront the unconscious behavior and barriers that your top women see and face. Get some data on who’s been promoted and who should be. Work with your HR head and your line managers to start making change. You may have a woman in place who would be the best candidate to be your successor. What a shame it would be lose her.
Look at your customer base and see where placing a woman in a visible leadership position can have a positive impact on that customer relationship. Leadership development is about developing people, but it is also about developing the business. Ultimately, it must develop the business. So being strategic about placing women where they can impact the bottom line… and making sure that the women in those roles have the specific skills needed… is what will have that impact. Specific skill development, rather than general leadership or management skill development, may be what is needed. And that can be accomplished via mentoring or coaching.
It’s important that you show your high potential women or current women leaders your commitment to them; it’s important that you show your customers your commitment to women; it’s important that you show your communities your commitment to women, as future employees. None of that requires a budget. It all requires leadership behavior on the part of the CEO. And the ROI on that behavior is tremendous.
Lynne Morton is an award-winning executive coach, management consultant and public speaker. She helps organizations and individuals develop their potential, with a special emphasis on the leadership potential of women. President of NY-based Performance Improvement Solutions, Inc., she has counseled executives around the world on how to identify potential and how to align that to business results. Lynne is also a Vistage speaker. Prior to founding PI Solutions in 2000, Lynne held leadership roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Marsh & McLennan Cos. She can be reached at email@example.com .
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