Why is it important to develop your high-potential employees? Simple—if you’re not investing in them, they’re apt to go somewhere else, where they can get the education, training, and career advancement they desire. It’s too expensive and disruptive, in today’s construction economy, to suddenly have your key people walk out the door.
If you have high-potential, next-generation leaders in your business, give them the care and feeding they need so they can prosper. Company leaders all too often miss opportunities to help advance their people for two reasons. First, they’re too busy. With all the balls they’re juggling at any given time, advancing the careers of other people often doesn’t make it to the top of their lists. Second, leaders think development has to be a program with an immense splash—something big in scale or an earthquake-level event—to get people’s attention. But that’s just not the case.
Here are four simple, easy ways you can help your people advance and give them the encouragement they need:
1. Ask them to explore a problem or a challenge that you’re having: a new technology, an emerging situation that you’re not sure how to handle, a unique customer request, investigating a new business opportunity, or something you think might just stretch them a little bit. Maybe it’s an issue you’ve handled dozens of times in your career, and you could solve the matter in mere minutes; nonetheless, take the chance to push your younger leaders outside of their comfort zones. Be sure to have them report back with their findings and recommendations. That’ll give you a chance to explore the quality of their research and thinking.
2. Ask them to do drafts of proposals or business letters, and then evaluate the work product together. You can guide them to improve their writing skills and, again, it’s another chance to peer into the style and quality of their thinking.
3. This is a really simple one: Simultaneously read a business book, then get together, perhaps with a larger group, and talk it through. Invariably, if you read a 200-page business book, the conclusions you draw are going to be somewhat different from someone else’s. Your high-potential employee may see different opportunities and ideas from yours, and that is yet another opportunity to peer into their thought processes.
4. Send them to an industry conference or meeting. When they come back, it’s not enough to just ask them how it went; have them write a report and then discuss it with them. One of our recent Boot Camp members did that for his company, and two things came from it. It helped him consolidate his takeaways from the Boot Camp, and it illustrated the value he was bringing back to the company. He delivered enumerated, specific ideas for improving his company’s culture and profitability.
The goal of any of these exercises is to evaluate the quality and depth of thinking of your potential next-generation leaders. These tips also provide valuable mentorship time, where you can help guide their thinking in a way that’s consistent in line with your company and culture.