Why and how to build your leadership funnel

Leadership-FunnelAcknowledging the leadership funnel

Whether they know it or not, every organisation has a leadership funnel, it’s just a question of how much emphasis is put on building and developing it. More often than not, far more importance is placed on the sales funnel due to the immediate and obvious effect this has on corporate performance.

The importance of the leadership funnel

As the economy recovers, it’s never been more important to have a recognised and structured leadership funnel in place. The more attractive the external business environment is the more likely senior managers are to leave, if they feel their skills could be better used elsewhere. This migration can create a gap in leadership which can have devastating effects on the future direction of the business.

A leadership funnel which is embraced throughout a business can also have very positive effects on corporate culture. When managers prepare employees to be their successors, this suggests the manager will be moving on to a bigger, more responsible role within the firm. This upward movement helps to reinforce a culture of positive change, agility and growth.

4 leadership funnel best practices

Below we examine 4 best practices which will help you to identify gaps in your funnel, retain senior managers and help ensure you have a consistent internal supply of highly effective leaders.

1. Address the most pressing gaps first

Once you have acknowledged your leadership funnel, and committed to developing it, you must uncover any possible gaps in future leadership. You should identify any potential succession issues in the short to mid-term future, and these gaps must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

2. Use all the available tools

360 degree feedback and personality profiling will help reveal any weaknesses in the funnel and highlight areas that require development to fill the gaps. When using these tools you should be clear on what metrics are important to your particular leadership funnel and which of these metrics most accurately predicts an outcome. Even the most advanced feedback and profiling tools will fail to deliver actionable insights without a great deal of thought and planning well in advance.

3. Focus on development, not training

It’s important not to confuse development with training. Training is often a one-size-fits-all, one dimensional, one directional process. Training assumes that certain techniques, processes and systems are the correct way to do certain things and focuses on compliance. Development, on the other hand, is delivered using two-way dialogue, is focused more on future needs and emphasises performance over compliance. Whilst training is based on known facts, development explores the unknowns and takes people beyond their comfort zones.

4. Give autonomy in exchange for accountability

In order to maintain your leadership funnel and retain as many of your senior executives as possible, it’s important to foster a culture of autonomy. One of the most common reasons cited for senior managers leaving an organisation is that they felt constrained when making important decisions. Enabling managers to make decisions on issues they are often closest to will make them far less likely to want to employ their skills elsewhere. However, there’s an important balance to be made between autonomy and accountability. It should be made clear that managers are held accountable for the results of their decisions, and any negative results should be used for further development.

What tips do you have for building a consistent supply of leaders in your business? For more of our insights on leadership development challenges and opportunities, do join us on a leadership team development day.