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Weekly (2/28/11)

Topic of the Week  True Grit: Keeping Your Eye Out for Future Leaders:

True Grit: Keeping Your Eye Out for Future Leaders

One of the most important, and overlooked issues facing today's leaders is to create the next generation of leaders. This requires behaviors not normally associated with leadership: sharing decision-making, acknowledging other's contributions and deferring to the judgments of others. Which reminds me of how the Seattle Seahawks backed into the playoffs in 2011. Okay, many teams have squeaked into the playoffs, but the Seahawks positively smelled up the joint, being the first team to win it's division with a losing record in a season not shortened by labor insanity.

Not all potential leaders look like potential leaders, some may even have a losing record. Ironically, the Hawks proved that they belonged at the dance when they won their first playoff game against the defending champs from New Orleans. I've included three Do's and one Don't for developing future leaders. For more, check out Potlich, Cairo and Rhinesmith's book, "Head, Heart and Guts" (Jossey-Bass, 2006).

Do promote people before they're ready. I love this particular piece of advice. Because most of us want someone in a job who has already proven that they can do the job. But in that circumstance you'll get exactly what you know you'll get. I'm a big fan of putting someone in a job before they're totally ready so that you can be surprised at where they take the job. Let's face it, incremental improvements aren't good enough in today's turbulent workplace. You need breakthroughs. Recycling retreads won't get you there, the real innovations usually come from people who are in a bit over their heads, able to make new connections and not bound by what's worked in the past.

Do create opportunities for people to learn. Peter Senge is the guru most often credited with creating the idea of a learning organization. Many organizations pursued this idea aggressively until the recession hit when they tossed it overboard. Call me old school, but I think learning should never go out of fashion. Give people formal learning, training, and informal learning opportunities where they can discuss their decision making process.

Do help people keep perspective. Okay, I've lost perspective a time or two during my career. Heck, you could argue that it happened just last week. That's why it's so important to do everything that you can to help people not get too high when things are going good, nor too low when things are going bad. The best way to create learning opportunities and to help people keep perspective is to actually spend time with them.

Don't avoid talking about their career. Let's face it, most of us won't be doing the job we're currently doing for the rest of our lives. Since there almost always will be a next job, don't be scared to talk about what's next. In fact, talking to your people about what's next will make them feel like you really care about them.

As a leader, it's important to be a hawk, always on the lookout for new people and new opportunities.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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