Quick, develop some leaders!

August 3, 2010 by Wally Bock

“Honey, it’s almost dinner time. Would you go outside and plant some tomatoes?”

Sounds stupid. After all, you can’t plant tomatoes at 4 o’clock and have tomatoes at 6 o’clock dinner. But that seems to be what many companies expect from talent development.

Check out this Wall Street Journal story that’s titled, “Leadership Training Gains Urgency Amid Stronger Economy.” Here’s the lead.

“Fearing a shortage of qualified managers as business picks up, some companies are bolstering leadership-development efforts. Layoffs and training cutbacks in the past two years have thinned manager pipelines. And employers worry that baby boomers who postponed retirement during the recession will start to depart as recovering stock prices reinflate retirement funds.”

Why are companies in this pickle? Simple. They cut back on training and development during the downturn.

“Employers cut spending on training by 11 percent in both 2009 and 2008, according to human-resources consulting firm Bersin & Associates LLC.”

So now those companies that cut back are in a mad scramble to find some magical talent development trick. Too bad for them that talent development isn’t a bag of tricks.

Companies that do a great job of talent development don’t do it with tricks. They do it by doing the basics over and over again, with unremitting diligence.

They understand that training and development are investments in the future of the company. Here are some of the things common to top companies for talent development.

Top management gets involved. They may be instructors in company training programs. They almost assuredly will devote precious time and attention to evaluating possible future leaders.

People get exposed to both training and developmental assignments. Most of the important things aren’t learned in a classroom, they’re learned on the job, shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who already knows.

They know that you’ve always got to have leaders and highly skilled individual contributors in the pipeline, so you fill vacancies seamlessly. The tomatoes need to be in the garden, ripe and ready.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Talent Management

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  1. working girl says:

    I never thought about the amazing correlation between leaders and tomatoes. Thanks for the great new insight!

  2. Keenan says:

    So true, so sadly true. Leadership is almost always a hollow creed, the first to be cut, few robust programs designed to develop it and little company wide commitment.

    Not surprised by this article.

    Nice metaphor.

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