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Identifying future leaders

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has been the focal point of concern for businesses worldwide over the past few years. However, other pressing changes have also affected the way organisations operate.

John Beeson

Globalisation and the rapid pace of technological developments are just two serious forces impacting upon the capability of businesses to develop and produce favourable results.

These challenges can faze even the most promising of business minds, but not John Beeson, who even in the current climate, sees opportunity for everyone, especially aspiring executives.

Owner of US-based, Beeson Consulting, John is a management consultant for hugely successful multinational companies including General Electric, Colgate Palmolive, Philips, Dell, Starbucks and Time Warner.

Such is his passion for the subject that he was prepared to share his views and experiences with Kiwi businesses, even in the midst of a New Zealand holiday. Recently he lead at a seminar organised by Auckland-based company Grafton Consulting.

Afterwards John shared his ideas with Business to Business elaborating on the demands on businesses and their response to the changes. He also commented on his new book, The Unwritten Rules – The Six Skills You Need To Get Promoted To the Executive Level.

“Rapidly changing technology is having a profound effect on the management of businesses not only by its pace but also by driving competition as business models change quickly,” John says. “That’s causing companies to find new competition overnight.”

Acknowledging that the recession has been a step backwards, prompting cost cutting and making businesses work toward keeping their individual ships afloat, he says as the economy picks up, there are forces driving change.

“This is altering organisations and how they are structured. In addressing the magnitude of this change, some organisations are faster in their response than others.”

With businesses forced to identify and develop leaders who are skilled in master strategies, John says they are seeking leaders who can embrace and lead change, forcing companies to go in directions they may not have gone before.

He thinks ‘talent’ is critical for businesses and should be developed within organisations. “These organisation also need to retain younger talent with technological skills, who are less loyal to companies than perhaps their parents were.

“If you consider succession planning, you’ll see companies are now applying more resources to identifying future leaders. They are not only looking for certain specific skills, but also strategic skills as well as people who are comfortable with change.”

In the US, John says, companies are assessing external candidates for hire against these capabilities. “Unlike 15 years ago, organisations now look for leadership skills in addition to the particular skill set needed for a position.

“There is a range of ways to assess these skills. For instance, in the middle level, getting managers around a table for a group discussion to identify trends. However, at senior levels companies may bring in professionals, people like us who do some personality determinant testing to create a profile.”

John conceded that tests were only an indicator. “An employee’s performance is also considered. The tests will assess how compatible people are with change and similar challenges.

John’s new book The Unwritten Rules – The Six Skills You Need To Get Promoted To the Executive Level focuses on the premise that doing a great job doesn’t necessarily cut it when it comes to promotion.

It conveys that to be promoted candidates need to establish some key skills, which aren’t necessarily gained from training programmes.

“The impetus for the book stemmed from two different observations gained from being in this field for 30 years,” John says. “Firstly, every company I deal with is concerned with a lack of leadership talent.

“Secondly, I also deal with very talented leaders keen to reach executive level, but don’t know how. This ‘disconnect’ prompted me to write the book.”

In his book, John encourages people to be assessed by senior managers and be proactive about developing missing skills.

“I also talk about innovation and change, operating across organisational boundaries to work with others to get work done. This is all a skill set. The last skill set the book addresses is executive presence. It boils down to the person’s ability to project self-confidence that they can succeed at the executive level.”

With John’s thoughts on executive leadership now in print, businesses and employees can apply themselves to discarding the ‘disconnect’ and addressing the withering forces of change effectively.