Do you know who has the capability to lead your organization in the future?  Do know if you have the people with the capability and potential you need to succeed?

Leadership succession plays a vital role in ensuring that an organisation can fulfill its long term aims and objectives.   But how does an organisation go about identifying people with potential?

The first step in the process has to be preparing a ‘specification’ of characteristic of someone with high potential.  In other words a description of the skills, capabilities and experiences that the business needs from its key people in the future.  These may include:

  • Intellectual and critical thinking ability.
  • Specific behavioral traits.
  • Technical skills and knowledge.
  • Experience and types of role.
  • Personal impact and credibility.

While evidence to measure/assess some of the above can be collected from how a candidate has performed in their previous roles, the only way to eliminate the prejudices and inconsistencies of different managers viewpoints it to undertake an independent assessment of each person.  In this way decisions about who has/does not have the potential to fulfill a key role can be taken in a consistent manner across the organization.

An independent assessment process will enable further evidence to be collected to help managers make decisions about an individual’s motivations, capabilities and potential.

Typically such a process will consist of collecting evidence in a number of ways, for example:

  1. From the candidates themselves by completing questionnaires and profiles.
  2. From feedback from people who know the work of the candidates.
  3. From a formal assessment centre.

The first two invariably consist of using tools such as: 360 degree Leadership feedback questionnaires, career values questionnaires and other specific psychometric profiling instruments (e.g. Myers Briggs, TMS, 16PF, or OPQ 32).

A formal assessment centre will typically involve a day during which the candidates with potential are observed undertaking a number of challenging individual and team tasks.  These tasks may include:

  • ‘Intelligence’ tests for example critical thinking, verbal and numerical reasoning.
  • Business case studies.
  • Leadership and team activities
  • Structured interviews.

The information from the whole process is subsequently reviewed and each candidate’s results prepared and benchmarked against other internal or external high performing managers.  Once this is complete, the results should be reviewed and validated by using a panel of senior managers who will also make the final decisions about who will and who will not be earmarked for future roles.

Finally, care needs to be taken about how feedback is given to the candidates.  It is important that the detailed outcomes from the whole assessment process are provided and it is not just perceived as a pass/fail result.