Late in 2012, business leaders around the world were asked what they saw as their big training needs in 2013. One of the top responses was the need to be better at coaching and developing their people. This just reinforces what we already thought: perhaps the most difficult problem facing businesses today is that of attracting, developing, and retaining key people.
This isn’t exactly a new problem; it’s just that for whatever reason it seems to have gotten worse over the past 10 years or so. Repeatedly we hear business leaders say, “We have plenty of opportunity for growth; we just don’t have the right people in the right places to be able to handle it.” The real issue is usually not a lack of numbers. The real issue is a shortage of “rising stars”.
There are a couple of places businesses fail when it comes to their rising stars. First, they don’t identify who those people are. Second, if they are identified, they aren’t treated any differently than the rest of the team.
Regarding the first problem, you have to put people in a position to find out if they are potential rising stars. In other words, put some groups of people together to tackle a key issue. It doesn’t have to be the most strategic issue, just some key short-term thing that needs to be fixed. And then watch what happens. When you watch your team perform together as a group, the potential leaders tend to stand out. Who takes charge? Who gets stuff done? And just as importantly, who doesn’t?
If you have a pretty good idea who your rising stars are, the next thing to remember is this: they aren’t like everybody else, so don’t treat them that way. I’ve heard too many business leaders say, “I don’t want to look like I’m favoring anybody.” Wrong. These rising stars are different and they need to be treated differently. They want to be challenged. They want to do work that has an impact on the business. They want to be involved in the vital and strategic parts of the business. Give them that opportunity! If they don’t get it from you, they’ll go somewhere else looking for it – good luck trying to replace them.
Lastly, make sure your rising stars know that you think of that way. Talk to them about your view of their potential and the value they bring to the business. Let them know how important you think they are. I remember a conversation I had with a business owner a few years ago. The individual he thought would someday run the business had left for another company. “I don’t understand why he’d leave!” the owner said. “He had the chance to run this place!” “Did you ever tell him that?” I asked. “Of course not,” the owner said, “then he would’ve asked for a raise!” That owner is still looking for that person’s replacement.
The point of all this is that top people are a precious commodity, as hard or harder to find as anything else we need to effectively run a business. Do you know who your top people are? If you do, what are you doing to make sure they develop into the people who can help you maximize your business’s potential? Have a plan for your rising stars – they are your future.