5 Questions with Carolyn Shiffman: Developing leadership in 2015

1. Nearly half of U.S. companies claim leadership is the is the most difficult skill to find in employees, and just 36 percent said they felt leadership was a strength within their company, according to a 2015 Global Workforce Leadership Survey conducted by WorkPlaceTrends.com. How important is it to have a strong leadership group and why do you feel it’s such a challenge to find people with leadership characteristics?

Organizations today face many challenges; the economy, globalization and advanced technology. To meet these challenges a strong leadership team is essential. Effective leaders identify strategies, goals and objectives needed to guide and direct the organization and the employees. This includes identifying employees who can be groomed and developed into effective leaders.

It’s interesting to think about how individuals are slated for a leadership position. Most of us start our careers at the bottom of the ladder. We work hard and take on new projects with enthusiasm and vigor. This brings recognition, praise, and promotions. We move up the ladder. In many cases, employees are promoted for what they have done or accomplished with projects, but not because they have developed leadership skills or knowledge regarding leading and managing others. Knowledgeable, skilled employees are promoted without leadership training or development

A variety of business people looking toward the camera2. With four million Baby Boomers retiring each year a leadership gap has been created that leaves 30 percent of companies reportedly struggling to fill senior leadership roles. What can be done to address this growing leadership gap?

One area that has not been fully addressed in organizations is succession planning. There are times that positions become available unexpectedly, and the leadership team promotes an individual to fulfill an immediate gap or vacancy. There are times it works and other times when it does not. Organizations should take a proactive approach and have succession planning as part of their strategic planning process.

3. Thirty-nine percent of the companies surveyed reported offering some form of leadership development program for their employees, but just 15 percent of employees felt the training prepared them for the next level. How can companies train and develop leaders effectively and is leadership something that can be taught?

A goal of the strategic plan mentioned above would be a mentoring program. A mentoring program would add value to developing future leaders. Pairing seasoned leaders with new managers would provide a sounding board, a role model, and a confidant for new leaders. Mentoring allows seasoned leaders to share their activities, decisions and experiences with the new leader.

4. Younger generations are not as willing to take over leadership positions, with just 31 percent of Millennial employees reporting they are eager to seek a top position, a figure considerably less than then previous generations. Why do you feel Millennials may be hesitant to pursue leadership roles?

This is a really good question. I think the Millennial employees value their personal time more than Baby Boomers have in the past. This generation believes in work/life balance. Millennials have a strong sense of work ethics; they want to work hard, and they want to do valuable work. But they enjoy flexibility and their personal downtime.

5. Employees expressed that professional career direction was important to their development, however just over 50 percent of employers reported conducting annual performance reviews at a minimum. How important are performance evaluations and offering direction in leadership development?

Performance reviews are essential to both the supervisor and the employee.  Evaluations, when used correctly, can serve as a guide to career planning and development for employees. The supervisor benefits from understanding the career goals of the employee and can help direct or assign projects to help the employee meet those goals. Performance plans can help ensure the employee succeeds in meeting their goals. Performance reviews are typically held annually, yet become more effective when reviewed on a more routine basis.

Carolyn Shiffman is the Academic Program Manager for the Leadership Concentration within Post University’s MBA program. Shiffman has served in executive management positions for over 20 years, working with for-profit and non-profit institutions. Throughout her career she has focused on helping others achieve success with their professional and personal goals. Shiffman earned her Ph.D. in Organization and Management from Capella University.

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