“If practitioners remain fixed in their mindset regarding the use of feedback tools for development only purposes (versus decision-making) they will become increasingly less relevant to senior leaders in organizations. In short, there needs to be a better balance struck between ensuring an emphasis on development while also adding demonstrable value (and ‘teeth’) to the strategic talent agenda.”
What Do We Know About Developing Leadership Potential? The Role of OD in Strategic Talent Management By Allan H. Church
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designed to differentiate employees with high (leadership) potential. Research indicates that half of all senior In fact, this scenario of differentiatexternal hires in corporations fail within ing talent is exactly what is occurring in the first 18 months and the costs are stagthe marketplace. Recent research with 84 gering (Bauer, 2011). Given the negative “top development” blue chip companies, impact of poor talent acquisition and for example, has reported that 70% are succession planning processes, CEOs and currently using multiple methods to assess their Boards of Directors in organizations their senior executives and high-potentials today are increasingly becoming con(Church & Rotolo, 2013). Of those using cerned with corporate talent management assessments, 90% collect data on their practices as well as indicators of pipeline senior leaders, and 75% include their strength of C-suite leadership potential. high-potentials (compared to only 37% “Do we have enough high-potentials for focusing on early career professionals). the future of the business?” is a real quesWhile the number one stated goal of these tion on their minds particularly in today’s assessments is developmental, 60% of constantly changing and dynamic (VUCA) companies are using assessments for both business environment. As a result, one development and internal decision-making follow-up question that is commonly asked (i.e., placement, staffing, and promotions). of the Chief Human Resource Officer is In addition, and perhaps most importantly “can we effectively identify and develop for OD practitioners, the top three dataleadership potential in our employees, and based tools that are currently being used if so, how?” for these assessment processes consist of In turning to practitioners for answers, multisource (aka 360-degree) feedback, however, those with an organization devel- personality inventories, and structured opment (OD) versus a talent management interviews, all at about 60% of the time (TM) mindset are likely to differ signifi(and often together). cantly in their response (Church, 2013). Clearly, some of what are considered A traditional OD answer to this question classic data-driven OD tools for change might be that everyone has potential (Burke, 1982; Cummings & Worley, and that all employees deserve and need 2009; French & Bell, 1990; Waclawski & development. A TM response, in contrast, Church, 2002) are now being used quite would be that those with higher leadership broadly for purposes beyond just individual potential should be identified and given development. Bracken and Church (2013) significantly greater developmental empha- have also noted this trend in the perforsis in order to build the succession pipeline mance management arena as well with and bench for the future of the business. 360-degree and related upward feedback This latter perspective would likely result in (e.g., at PepsiCo and other companies) now a new assessment or measurement process being positioned as a formal and legitimate
measure of people results. In essence “the how individuals get things done” is becoming as important in many companies as the results achieved themselves. The “how,” however, has historically been the sole realm of OD feedback tools and interventions and has now entered the mainstream TM arena as well. This shift in the use of individual feedback data for talent planning and performance management, along with the potential power of Big Data applications for the future of organizational change processes, means that OD practitioners need to significantly upgrade their data acumen and skills if they are going to meet the needs of their clients in the future. If practitioners remain fixed in their mindset regarding the use of feedback tools for development only purposes (versus decision-making) they will become increasingly less relevant to senior leaders in organizations. In short, there needs to be a better balance struck between ensuring an emphasis on development while also adding demonstrable value (and “teeth”) to the strategic talent agenda. While clearly talent is not the only area in which OD practitioners can contribute, it does represent a critical business need today, and perhaps an opportunity to further enhance the impact of OD as a profession. So what is the role of the OD practitioner in these types of strategic talent management efforts? The answer is quite murky. It requires understanding where OD interventions end and TM efforts begin, which is currently not a clean distinction in practice. In some organizations, for example, OD groups have been folded under broader TM teams while in others they represent distinctly discrete sub-functions. This is largely because TM is neither a field itself, nor well defined even as an area of practice from one company to the next. For example, Silzer and Dowel (2010) in their review of the practice of TM describe ten different definitions and include a list of 25 practice areas that are often included in what constitutes TM work. Interesting, a review of this list shows that a large number of these practice areas could also be said to belong to the field of OD as well. Take for example
reward and recognition, training and development, coaching, leadership development, diversity efforts, organizational culture initiatives, organizational values initiatives, employee engagement, work and job design, etc. Do these belong to TM or OD now? So the bad news is that TM is just as widely defined today as OD has been historically. The good news, however, is that this means that for some companies, if properly integrated with (and at the same time differentiated from) TM, OD practitioners have the potential to be even more relevant given the current emphasis on talent and leadership potential, development and succession. So, how do we bridge the gap here? How do OD practitioners make themselves integral to TM efforts? How do they avoid being seen by their TM colleagues as primarily cultural change agents or interpersonal process experts? Perhaps if OD practitioners had a deeper understanding of the underlying conceptual nature of leadership potential, they would be in a better position to answer more strategically the CEO and CHRO’s question of “What is potential and can it be developed or not?” This, in turn, would enable them to play a more significant and strategic role in the TM and leadership succession agenda that is so critical to organizations today at the highest leadership levels. The purpose of this paper is to describe one of the key ways in which OD practitioners can play a major role in TM efforts by integrating the unique strengths of the OD mindset and TM mindset to form a holistic and complementary approach to the development of individual leadership potential. The emphasis is on the nature of potential and specifically what we know about developing potential vis-à-vis a framework called the BluePrint. What Do OD Practitioners Know About Potential? If we look to the origins of OD and the espoused values of the field over the last 50 years, there is a clear and consistent emphasis on maximizing the growth of individuals and human potential. This is typically achieved through interventions
aimed at self-awareness, learning, and collaboration. Putting aside the long-standing and largely irrelevant debate between prioritizing humanistic values over business performance (clearly both remain important to the field), very few practitioners or scholars would declare that OD is not about developing individuals and organizations. In fact, as many authors have noted, OD’s unique value proposition as a profession is based on the very premise of having normative, positivistic values regarding the process of organizational change and high standards of practice (e.g., Burke, 1994; Church, 2001; Gellerman, Frankel, & Ladenson, 1990; Waclawski & Church, 2002). For example, OD practitioners have been known to actually walk away from potentially lucrative engagements where other types of consultants might not consider the value structure of the work in which they were about to engage (Pinault, 2000). So if OD practitioners are all about growth and potential at a general level, where are they when it comes to developing or even identifying other specific forms such as leadership potential? The data suggests they are less facile in that area. More specifically, research recently done with 294 OD practitioners (Roloff, Fudman, Shull, Church, & Burke, 2014), has reported that out of 63 different interventions and activities, providing training, process consultation, and executive and leadership development activities were the top #1, #2, and #3 most commonly used interventions today. Conversely, and to the main argument here, core talent management activities such as succession planning, individual assessment, and competency modeling were ranked 30th, 33rd and 38th respectively. In short, OD practitioners are not sufficiently engaged in TM efforts to have the impact that they could in these areas. Given the critical nature of differentiated development to TM, to be integral to the talent agenda would at a minimum require an understanding of leadership potential, including how to measure it, and perhaps most importantly how and where to develop it. Put another way, if OD is about individual development what exactly are we developing?
What Do We Know About Developing Leadership Potential?
Figure 1. The Leadership Potential BluePrint Primer on Potential It is fair to say that the question of “what is a high-potential” is one of the most hotly debated areas in the TM profession today. It is a popular topic at professional and industry conferences such as the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology’s Leading Edge Consortium (LEC) and many meetings hosted by the Conference Board. The subject has also become the target for attempts at market place differentiation by executive search (recruiting) firms and consultants alike in the assessment and staffing industry. As a consequence there are many models of potential in the field making the selection of an approach difficult for a company at best. Recently, however, there has been a movement toward a more unified and comprehensive framework that seeks to remedy the situation and help guide future efforts in the assessment and development area. The model is called the Leadership Potential BluePrint (Church & Silzer, 2014) and is based on a comprehensive review and synthesis of psychological and management theory, practice-based research, and multiple models, tools, and frameworks from consulting firms as well as a number of internal corporate TM processes (for a complete literature review and detailed theoretical comparison of existing available models of potential see Silzer & Church, 2009). The model is currently in
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use at several large organizations including Citi-Bank, Eli Lilly, and PepsiCo as part of their formal talent management and development processes, and is the under lying framework at several consulting firms as well. While the BluePrint has been described in detail elsewhere, because the design of the model has significant and direct implications in how and where leadership potential can be developed, it is important to briefly summarize the major dimensions here. The most basic assumption overall is that potential is a multi dimensional construct. Despite the claims made by some consulting firms today, there is no single all-encompassing measure of high-potential. What is required for assessing and developing potential is a multi-trait, multi-method approach (Church & Rotolo, 2013; Silzer & Church, 2009). In fact, potential is best thought of as a mixture of both individual characteristics or traits, and specific capabilities, knowledge, and skills that each contribute in some way individually and collectively to long-term success in leadership positions in organizations. While the emphasis in most discussions of leadership potential is contextualized within corporate environments or for-profit organizations, the same basic premise does apply to any form of organization. So what are these core elements? There are three: foundational,
growth, and career (see Figure 1). These are layered in progression in the model from more stable traits to more developable skills and capabilities in leaders. Each is described briefly below. Foundational Dimensions: Foundational Dimensions represent the most basic and enduring traits or attributes of an individual. These are characteristics that are either genetically determined and/or shaped early in life. They include two core factors: personality (e.g., traits, preferences, orientations) and cognitive capabilities (e.g., raw intelligence, strategic thinking, working with complexity, “connecting the dots”). As a result of the fundamental nature of these dimensions, they are generally quite stable throughout one’s life and career and thus relatively easily understood and measured by many standard tools and instruments. In this context, highpotentials are generally identified as those who are smarter, more strategic thinkers, with a certain constellation of personality factors which include strong interpersonal skills, and perhaps above average interpersonal sensitivity and sociability to use the Hogan Personality Inventory (2009) parlance. Although many OD practitioners are familiar with similar types of feedback tools in this area as they relate to enhancing self-awareness in leadership development programs and coaching (e.g., Burke
& Noumair, 2002), the use of personality and cognitive measures for assessment of potential and selection into leadership roles in organizations has generally been the domain of I-O psychologists. This will need to change if OD practitioners want to have an impact on the talent agenda. Practitioners will need to become more comfortable with the TM vs OD mindset differences of differentiated assessment versus broadbased development (Church, 2013). For example, while some personality tools are excellent for individual development and/or team building interventions they may not be valid for predicting leadership potential or future success. Growth Dimensions: Growth Dimensions reflect an individual’s ability and orientation toward development and growth. This includes two core factors of learning ability (e.g., what some call learning agility, openness, adaptability, feedback-seeking behavior), and individual motivation (e.g., ambition, drive, achievement focus). The concept of employee engagement and organizational commitment (from the individual’s perspective not the organization’s) would also be included here. This is why the Corporate Leadership Council has this element included in their highpotential model (CLC, 2005) despite the potential misattribution to the organizational level of analysis. These aspects of potential are comprised of the intersection between inherent traits and learnable skills and capabilities. Using these dimensions, high-potentials are generally characterized as high-learners who are open to feedback and individual development and driven to succeed and advance. The classic interview question of “tell me where you see yourself in five years” fits within the context of this dimension of potential. In general, from an OD perspective, the level of ambition of a leader is often the target of individual coaching (sometimes even suggesting someone think about stepping off the executive track), while learning ability via self-awareness efforts is more often the direct target of OD related feedback interventions. Arygris’s double-loop learning concept (1977), for example, predates what are considered to be contemporary
experience-based approaches to leadership development and potential (e.g., Lombardo & Eichinger, 2002; McCall, 1998), although that was largely an organizational learning application versus a talent management one. Still, there are some interesting areas of overlap.
still need to learn from a TM perspective, such as when and how to focus on empirically based validity of their measures for Foundational Dimensions, working with the Career Dimensions are a clear area of strength for OD in general and one that easily translates to TM applications.
Career Dimensions: Career Dimensions are the third and perhaps most widely targeted of the BluePrint areas in TM applications and certainly the most common in OD interventions and programs today. The two factors here include what might be consid-
Developing Potential Now that we have a better understanding of current thinking regarding the dimensions of leadership potential, the central question becomes one of enhancing individual capa-
Recognizing that it is difficult, if not impossible, to alter individuals’ personality or cognitive abilities after reviewing results from a feedback tool, it is very possible for individuals to build a deeper understanding of their core preferences and the relevant implications of these, and as a result develop new behaviors and work around skills. This can be done through coaching, mentoring, observation and spot feedback, and process consultation. To the extent that these new work around skills will help individuals achieve their performance goals and make an impact on the organization is likely to translate into enhanced potential. ered as traditional leadership competencies (e.g., building trust, inspiring others, developing teams, demonstrating courage), and pure functional and technical skills (e.g., functional expertise, operational excellence, business and industry knowledge). Given the traditional emphasis in OD on employee development and growth it is no surprise that these dimensions are the ones in which practitioners have the most knowledge and experience. Whether it is through data-based feedback mechanisms such as 360-feedback, organizational surveys, focus groups, process consultation, or even other types of interventions such as large-scale change implementations and Appreciative Inquiry, the emphasis of much of OD historically has been on building and embracing capability around the career dimensions (in the nomenclature of the BluePrint). Although there are a few areas that OD professionals might
bility. More specifically, as a field we know how to develop leaders but can we truly develop leadership potential? While many large companies such as GE, IBM, 3M, and PepsiCo along with other types of organizations such as the military have deep historical roots in leadership development efforts (Capelli, 2008; McCauley & McCall, 2014; Silzer & Dowell, 2010), the emphasis has largely been on programs, interventions and experiences that accelerate skills and candidate readiness for assuming leadership roles, not those that develop deep and innate future leadership potential itself. These are different constructs. The latter is a much more difficult puzzle to solve. So how might we do that? Classic OD theory and literature indicates that data creates energy for change (Burke, 1994; Lewin, 1951; French & Bell, 1990). Given the increasing use of multi-trait, multimethod assessments in organizations today
What Do We Know About Developing Leadership Potential?
Table 1. Development Potential Using the Leadership Potential BluePrint Dimension & Factors
Focus of Development
Career • Leadership Competencies • Functional & Technical Skills
• Leadership development programs, action learning, task forces, special projects, new assignments design to enhance specific skills, integrated learning efforts • Coaching, mentoring, job-shadowing, large group interventions, formal education, online learning • Individual feedback and assessment tools (behavioral, values) linked to Career Dimensions
• Enhanced leadership skills and new behaviors on key strategically aligned competencies • Deeper functional knowledge and skills or broader rounding out and exposure to a range of functional disciplines • Increased self-awareness of Career Dimensions (strengths and challenges)
Growth • Learning Ability • Motivation & Drive
• Appreciative experiential learning, planning for critical experiences gained and needed from current and future roles, ensuring reflective learning and inquiry from assignments • Collaborative career management, short and long-term individual career planning, visible support and targeted development to achieve employee goals • Individual feedback and assessment tools (linked to Growth Dimensions – e.g., learning agility)
• Increased focus on and ability to integrate, learn from and apply learnings to new experiences and situations • Renewed motivation, energy, and personal engagement to the work and/or organization • Increased self-awareness of Growth Dimensions (strengths and challenges)
Foundational • Cognitive Capabilities • Personality Characteristics
• Individual feedback and assessment tools (personality, cognitive) based on multiple sources that are valid measures and linked to different elements of leadership potential • Targeted coaching and mentoring to develop new behaviors and work around skills • Capability building around team composition and design
• Increased self-awareness and under standing of implications of Foundational Dimensions (basic characteristics, abilities, and potential derailers) • Creation of work around strategies and behaviors to augment strengths and mitigate potential issues • Enhanced understanding of team composition and ability to design a group for maximizing capability mix
(Church & Rotolo, 2013) there is a need to do something meaningful with all that information. Collecting that data and doing very little with it or using it to justify the wrong types of interventions will either have no impact or perhaps even negative consequences on the talent in the organization (e.g., reduced engagement and increased turnover). So how do practitioners go about responding to the challenge? The BluePrint provides some interesting answers. Some of these suggestions may not sit so well with OD practitioners, particularly those
Possible OD Interventions
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who are proponents of the concept that any human quality can be cultivated through effort (e.g., Dweck, 2006). The overall outlook for OD practitioners, however, is quite positive if they are willing to focus their efforts in specific content domains where development efforts can potentially have the most impact. Let’s discuss each one in this context starting at the base of the model. Table 1 provides an overview of the content for discussion. Foundational Dimensions: In general, we have a fairly limited ability to develop
Foundational Dimensions of leadership potential. In fact, focused OD interventions in this area (e.g., targeting “changes” in personality or cognitive specifically) are extremely difficult and probably not worth the effort if the goal is enhancing future potential. As noted early, growth and development are core values in the field and almost always included in the key objectives of an OD intervention be it large or small. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to believe that individuals can grow and develop in every aspect, based on decades of research in
industrial-organizational, personality, and cognitive psychology, it is clear that these elements of an individual simply do not change that much after a formative age, typically in one’s teens or earlier. In fact, one could argue that the only thing more difficult than changing an organization’s underlying culture is changing a leader’s inherent personality orientation or strategic thinking abilities. Seismic changes in a company (bankruptcy, major acquisition, massive turnover, divestiture, massive ethics violation and investigation, or takeover) or an individual’s life (e.g., death, divorce, job loss, health issues) can lead to massive change quickly but that is not the norm. So, in this context, it is probably not worth pursuing a training course focused on directly improving a leadership team’s inherent level of strategic thinking capability (as an example). Helping leaders develop in the context of Foundational Dimensions requires a more subtle approach. Because the focus at this level is on cognitive and personality characteristics (not leadership or functional skills for example that come later in the BluePrint) the emphasis should be on interventions that result in one or more of three outcomes: (a) increased self- awareness and understanding of implications of basic and inherent characteristics, abilities, and potential derailers that accompany them, (b) developing specific work-around skills that allow individuals to adapt, enhance strengths and/or mitigate potential issues, and (c) building an understanding of team composition and synergy. Fortunately, all of these areas are captured by interventions in the OD practitioner’s toolkit already to varying degrees. Starting with enhancing self- awareness, and returning to some of the basic principles of OD, feedback is a powerful tool and catalyst for change. Formal structured feedback approaches in the form of multi-rater methodologies have been in use in OD applications for decades dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. These tools became commonplace in the 1990s-2000s with the increasing popularity of 360-degree feedback and case applications (e.g., Bracken, Timmreck, & Church, 2001). Today they are standard
development tools in most major organizations. The fact that many top development companies as noted in Church and Rotolo’s (2013) study are relying on a combination of multisource feedback and personality for assessment and development efforts with their high-potential leaders suggests there is an opportunity for OD practitioners to do something even more meaningful with that data beyond just sharing results back as in the classic OD mindset. Truly emphasizing self-awareness by working with clients to surface individual characteristics (both personality based and reflecting intellectual capacity), and to understand resulting behaviors and impact on others, individually and collectively, becomes key. Selfawareness is the most important outcome at the Foundational Dimension level of the BluePrint precisely because the emphasis is on implications and impact, and not on changing the internal fundamentals of the individual. Outward behaviors that result from these traits can be changed, however, and given that increased managerial selfawareness has been empirically linked to performance and potential across a variety of settings (Church, 1997), this is an area in which OD professionals can help meet both the humanistic and business effectiveness values for the organization by helping individuals learn to better adapt and flex their styles. Enhancing self-awareness by itself though is of little value if there is no utilization of this information. Recognizing that it is difficult, if not impossible, to alter individuals’ personality or cognitive abilities after reviewing results from a feedback tool, it is very possible for individuals to build a deeper understanding of their core preferences and the relevant implications of these, and as a result develop new behaviors and work around skills. This can be done through coaching, mentoring, observation and spot feedback, and process consultation. These new work around skills will help individuals achieve their performance goals and make an impact on the organization. As a result they are likely to translate into perceptions of enhanced potential. Thus, while we are not directly developing against Foundational Dimensions, we are helping individuals enhance
their ability to make the best use of their existing capabilities and mitigate the impact of such issues as personality derailers (Dotlich & Cairo, 2003). Moreover, one could argue that OD practitioners are likely to be superior at helping develop work around skills in their clients compared to other types of TM and human resource professionals specifically because they have a mental model grounded in process consultation, systems thinking, and behavioral impact. The third area for developmental focus within the context of Foundational Dimensions of the BluePrint is the concept of team composition and a deliberate design for capability mix. Although a relatively simple concept, and one that has some similarities to group dynamics, this type of thinking has largely been left to the aspect of the team building arena where tools such as MBTI and FIRO-B have been quite popular in the history of OD (Burke & Noumair, 2002). Actually designing and staffing a partial or complete business unit or team with a specific set of complementary skills and capabilities has not been a primary focus in most TM processes. Recently, however, frameworks are starting to emerge that suggest this could have far reaching impact on team performance. In addition, and perhaps more importantly to this discussion, if an individual leader is building a team or being placed in one that has been specifically engineered to fully capitalize on his or her foundational strengths, the likelihood of realizing his or her potential is that much greater. For example, consider a marketer with an extremely creative and imaginative orientation but with a total lack of executional focus. Leading a team of other highly creative marketers that individual may start off being seen as having significant potential, but might lose that potential over time due to lack of results. Some have called this transition going from “Hipo to ALPO.” By designing the team in a way to have others with strong implementation mindset in well-defined collaborative roles, the team will have significantly greater odds of being successful. To implement this effectively, however, would require OD practitioners to enhance their knowledge of the validity
What Do We Know About Developing Leadership Potential?
of various personality and related tools for different uses (e.g., development versus decision-making) as some commonly used tools for team building are not valid for team composition. Still, this is an area where OD practitioners could truly make an impact on the talent agenda and one that is not yet owned by TM practitioners. In sum, while the examples above are not actually about developing leadership potential per se (the Foundational Level of potential is largely fixed as has been stated), they are descriptions of using OD techniques to design ways for individuals to further develop their adaptive skills. These skills will in turn enable them to further grow and succeed as a high-potential in that organizational context. In short, and turning to the sample intervention noted earlier, the training program described would not be targeted at developing “strategic thinking” but rather helping participants build their own personal “strategic infrastructure” involving the work around knowledge, skills, and supporting team members needed to ensure success. Growth Dimensions: At the mid-tier of the BluePrint there are the Growth Dimensions which consist of someone’s learning ability and motivation or drive. These are what might be considered moderately developable characteristics as they are comprised of both trait and skill based elements. On the trait side, there are aspects of personality that reflect both a propensity for learning or learning orientation as well as inherent motivation or ambition. To the extent these are trait-based they are unlikely to change. However, research has shown for example that the construct of learning agility is somewhat fluid and a capability that can be developed through various interventions (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2000). We also know that an individual’s level of motivation and drive can change throughout their life stage, life cycle, and career (e.g., a hungry new hire, rising up and comer, seasoned and established leader) depending on various circumstances (e.g., company messaging around career prospects, promotion rates, perceptions of senior leadership, family or medical situations, etc.). As a result, the
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OD practitioner does have opportunities to directly influence leadership potential at the Growth Dimension level at least to some degree. In general, this can be achieved through an emphasis on learning through experiences and fostering engagement overall. The unique development outcomes expected here would be increased focus on learning and the ability to integrate, reflect on and apply learnings from experiences to new situations, and renewed energy and commitment to the work and/or organization and achieving results. Increased self-awareness would be a goal also. Research and practice have shown that one of the most effective ways to develop the ability to learn and apply knowledge is to become immersed in learning activities and new experiences (McCauley & McCall, 2014). This can be done through more traditional OD methods of job design and job enrichment in which enhancing learning is a byproduct, or through more contemporary approaches to planfully design a series of different developmental experiences to build leadership breadth. Although specific multisource feedback on learning related constructs and behaviors can be helpful in this area depending on what is being measured, there are many other effective methods for OD practitioners to use as well. Focusing individuals through active dialogue, observation, coaching, and reflection on what they are learning from a role both during and after, and how it shapes their thinking about the people, situation, and context (and further learning as a result) is likely to have a significant impact on their future learning orientation. One way to think about this is as a combination of the power of Appreciative Inquiry as an OD methodology with the talent management practice of “assignmentology” to create something that might be called appreciative experiential learning. By focusing the individual on the positive learning aspects of the developmental experience and reinforcing openness and reflection, it is possible to develop leadership potential on this Growth Dimension. This increased capability will, in turn, continue to help the individual grow in the future at an increasing trajectory (a virtuous cycle) which
of course is supportive of a broader OD agenda overall. The second aspect of the Growth Dimensions of a high-potential that OD practitioners can influence directly through development efforts is an employee’s individual level of engagement or motivation. Although similar in part to the classic need for achievement construct, the motivation factor is more about the current level of focused drive and commitment to deliver and grow, than it is raw ambition to be the CEO of the firm. While an individual’s internal level of ambition may always be present, certain conditions or factors in the organization or an individual’s external personal situation (e.g., life/career events) may be moderating their current set of choices. This might result in an individual’s expressed need to slow down, refuse a promotion or transfer, or even leave the executive career track or the organization all together. While clearly an organization’s culture, structure, mission and vision, and certainly reward systems (Burke, 1994) will all play a role in shaping employee motivation and performance, these are more strategic OD systems variables that take time to influence and shape. They are not individual level interventions specifically designed for enhancing leadership potential. Still, they do represent a unique perspective that the OD practitioner brings that should be applied to the TM agenda at a broader level. Returning to the individual, some of the key ways to enhance motivation and engagement in an employee is to engage in activities and interventions that directly focus on their development. This applies both in the context of expanded skill building, variety, and new challenges in their current role (e.g., via job redesign, special assignments, or task forces) or planning for future opportunities and progression. One particularly impactful intervention in this area is to build manager capability to engage in collaborative career management practices. This represents a process of managers actively involving their team members in both the short and long term planned discussions regarding their goals, career aspirations, and perceived barriers to advancement. Rather than just asking
about future preferences as many managers do anyway, the focus should be on conducting regular formal dialogues that result in a concrete plan (which is revisited several times a year) with distinct outcomes over the course of a fixed time horizon. Whatever the timeframe (e.g., PepsiCo uses 10-year career plans for some talent pools and annual plans for others), focusing on the long-term development and achievement of future leaders’ career goals can result in very positive outcomes. This will include renewed levels of engagement and more direct and candid discussions regarding the true degree of future potential for the individual in that specific organization. By instilling a planning process such as this, it forces the future potential discussion, and helps those that do not fit the potential profile self-select out of the talent pool. Aside from the formal process of planning itself, what is also somewhat different from this perspective is helping others (both the individual and sometimes organizational leaders by implication as well) recognize that outwardly demonstrating a personal drive and commitment is not just seen as an important cultural outcome but also an indicator of future potential. In other words, because this aspect of motivation and employee engagement is somewhat malleable, and its absence is career limiting, as OD professionals we should be very focused on ensuring that future talent is energized and involved as much as possible. This will ultimately result in fewer false positives (“we really thought they were a high-potential but they turned out not to be”) and false negatives as well. In sum, from an OD perspective the development emphasis in the Growth Dimensions is on engagement at multiple levels.
that an individual accumulates over time that help to differentiate average performance from future potential. While some practitioners might argue that certain aspects of leadership in particular are also trait based and, therefore, cannot be developed, for example the debate between transformational versus transactional leaders (Burns, 1978), in the context of the BluePrint those trait elements would be reclassified to the Foundational or Growth Dimensions instead. Thus, if you remove the Foundational (i.e., interpersonal capability, strategic thinking, dealing with complexity) and Growth Dimensions (i.e., learning orientation, inspired, and passionate), you are left with those leadership skills that are much easier targets for focused growth and development interventions. In short, you can directly influence and develop these components of potential. The expected development outcomes here consist of (a) enhanced leadership skills and new behaviors on key strategically aligned competencies that define high-potentials in a given organization (i.e., contextually), and (b) deeper functional knowledge and skills or broader rounding out and exposure to a range of functional disciplines (depending on the target role or the answer to “potential for what?” question). Again, increased self-awareness here is a given. Generally speaking Career Dimensions can be enhanced quite effectively through a full range of OD methods and techniques including self-directed learning, formal and informal feedback mechanisms, integrated training and corporate university curriculums, residential leadership courses, action learning programs, mentoring and coaching, job shadowing, formal academic education, and apprenticeship, etc. These methods are so pervasive and established in the field of OD that a discussion of the Career Dimensions: The last area for pros and cons of each of these methods is developing leadership potential are the beyond the scope of this paper. Moreover, Career Dimensions which sit at the top of as noted in the earlier study (Roloff et. al., the BluePrint. Because they are comprised 2014), training and leadership developof leadership and functional knowledge, ment are already ranked the number #1 skills and competencies they represent and #3 most commonly used OD interboth the most commonly assessed areas ventions in the field today. In addition, all and the easiest to develop and augment via of the interventions discussed under the traditional OD programs and interventions. Growth Dimension apply here as well. The The Career Dimensions are capabilities important point to discuss is the focus of
those leadership and functional capability building efforts particularly under the rubric of formal competencies and competency models. Most critical is the link to leadership development efforts and what exactly is being developed, and why. Let’s start with three key assertions based on years of experience in the field. Number one: there is a finite number of leadership competencies in the world. Number two: 85% of all leadership competency models in organizations cover the same content at some underlying conceptual level. Number three: customization of a leadership model to an organization is vital to its effectiveness. What these essentially mean is that while the leadership dimensions or content is generally the same across companies, the cultural nuances, strategic priorities, and language of the model (i.e., words, behaviors, labels) are unique. Therefore, the focus of development and coaching programs to augment leadership potential must be unique and highly targeted as well. In short, off-theshelf cookie cutter leadership programs will not build bench (or augment potential), nor will basic core functional skill training. Rather, it is imperative that OD practitioners work collaboratively with the organization’s leadership and TM teams to design customized and focused develop ment interventions aimed at enhancing those specific competencies that are linked to being a high-potential for a given culture, function, or role. This might mean targeting what is needed for a specific C-suite role, functional leader (e.g., Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Office) or even the CEO of the company. In short, the answer to another key TM question “potential for what” needs to be answered, and that answer used to shape the specific leadership development priorities. The same logic applies to building functional capability in the Career Dimension. Because high-potentials for a specific company or role as defined in the BluePrint are somewhat context and culturally relevant (particularly the higher up the model you go), the focus on developing potential must also reflect this aspect. In practice this might mean having a targeted and highly engaging one-on-one action
learning development program focused on influencing external stakeholders for only a handful of leaders to further develop their potential (i.e., differentiated development). Or instead, it might mean designing and rolling out a program on influence skills for 4,000 managers intended to raise the general level of influence capability overall (i.e., development for all). Developing general leadership skills is unlikely to enhance an individual’s potential unless they happen to develop skills or behaviors in a key strategic area for that organization. The bottom line is that just because you provide a leadership development program does not necessarily mean you are developing leadership potential for the future of your organization. You might just be helping round out good people leaders. While this sounds like an easy distinction to make, there are many practitioners who for a variety of reasons cannot get beyond a core type of leadership development approach. Fundamentally, the focus here is on augmenting or increasing individual leadership potential based on a specific set of required competencies for the future of the business.
as our framework for leadership potential then the answer to our question about developing potential is a definitive yes. Organizations can implement programs, processes, and interventions that will develop certain aspects of leadership potential at different levels of impact throughout an employee’s career. The most efficient and immediate target of such efforts would be on augmenting those unique Career Dimensions (i.e., leadership and functional capabilities) that define and differentiate future potential for a given organization. This would be followed by efforts to enhance Growth Dimensions including learning capabilities and engagement through the use of developmental experiences and collaborative career planning. Efforts here will be more challenging but can reap longer term benefit through a virtuous learning cycle (or loop). Finally, using empirically valid feedback tools and processes designed to enhance self-awareness and build adaptive skills to assist with the realities of Foundational Dimensions are very important as well. Though arguably you cannot improve someone’s mental horsepower or their level of conscientiousness, you can help individuals learn ways Conclusion to build on strengths and develop work around opportunities which will help them In general, the answer to the central quessucceed in the future. tion of this paper “what do we know about Of course all development requires developing leadership potential?” is quite a resources. Not every organization will great deal. Although there are many modhave access to the same level of support els in the field today the BluePrint provides to design and implement all of the intera comprehensive and inclusive framework ventions needed to develop leadership based on a synthesis of the academic and potential from every aspect discussed here. applied literature and research. The answer Often tradeoffs must be made, which will to the companion question “can leaderagain raise the philosophical debate of ship potential be developed?” however, is developing the many versus the few discusit depends. How you define leadership (or sion between the TM and OD mindsets. high) potential determines what you can Still, the good news for senior leaders and measure and subsequently develop. If a human resource professionals is that there company believes that potential is solely are excellent (and probably underleveraged) about mental horsepower then there is opportunities for their OD colleagues to not much hope of fixing that despite what apply existing skills and interventions to some positively minded practitioners might solve critical strategic talent issues in comoptimistically suggest. In this case, exiting panies today. By doing so we will continue of current individuals and selection and to bridge the gap between OD and TM, acquisition of new (smarter) talent would which is critical as both perspectives are be required (Capelli, 2008). needed to support a total systems approach If we use a more multi-dimensional to organization performance and change construct such as the BluePrint, however, (Burke, 1994).
OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 3 2014
It is always useful to remember, however, that assessing individuals creates significant energy for change both positive and negative. Given that assessments are on the rise in major corporations, so too is the need to do something meaningful with that data to support both the growth of the individual and the organization. Practitioners should ensure that the data is used wisely going forward. OD professionals can play an important role here but only to the extent that they have the requisite knowledge and skills to appropriately guide corporations on the selection and use of tools for various talent and succession processes (Church & Rotolo, 2013). In the end, implementing the best approach for measuring and developing leadership potential in an organization is one of the most important contributions that practitioners can make to the business. Although the tension between advocating development for the many versus the few will continue between the OD and TM mindsets, in the context of enhancing leadership potential there are many situations and applications where these two perspectives can peacefully coexist. OD practitioners have the skills and intervention toolkit to make a significant and meaningful impact on the leadership and talent agenda in organizations today. They can do this by focusing on the development of the right capabilities and supporting insights that will enhance the future potential of leaders for their organization. They also are in a unique position to bring a systems perspective to the talent agenda which is often not the core orientation of many of those in TM roles. This can help ensure that the context of potential (i.e., potential for what) is fully understood during the development process. It has been said that the ROI of a TM function will be defined by the quality of the talent that is identified, developed, and advanced into higher level leadership roles throughout its tenure. Perhaps the ROI of an OD function (in the context of this discussion) should be defined by the degree of leadership potential that is directly enhanced through its targeted individual growth and development efforts.
References Argyris, C. (1977). Double-loop learning in organizations. Harvard Business Review, 55(5), 115–125. Bauer, T. N. (2011). Onboarding new employees: Maximizing success. SHRM Foundation’s Effective Practice Guideline Series. SHRM. http://www.shrm.org/ about/foundation/products/Pages/ OnboardingEPG.aspx Bracken, D. W., & Church, A. H. (2013). The “New” performance management paradigm: Capitalizing on the unrealized potential of 360 degree feedback. People & Strategy, 36(2), 34–40. Bracken, D. W., Timmreck, C. W., & Church, A. H. (Eds.). (2001). The handbook of multisource feedback: The comprehensive resource for designing and implementing MSF processes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Burke, W. W. (1994). Organization development: A process of learning and changing (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Burke, W. W., & Noumair, D. A. (2002). The role of personality assessment in organization development. In J. Waclawski & A.H. Church (Eds.), Organization development: A datadriven approach to organizational change (pp. 55–77). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Capelli, P. (2008). Talent on demand: Managing talent in an age of uncertainty. Boston: Harvard Business Press. Church A. H. (2013). Engagement is in the eye of the beholder: Understanding differences in the OD vs. Talent Management mindset. OD Practitioner, 45(2), 42–48. Church, A. H. (2001). The professionalization of organization development: The next step in an evolving field. In R. W. Woodman & W. A. Pasmore (Eds.), Research in organizational change and development (13, 1–42). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Church, A.H. (1997). Managerial selfawareness in high performing
individuals in organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(2), 281–292. Church, A. H., & Rotolo, C. T. (2013). How are top companies assessing their highpotentials and senior executives? A talent management benchmark study. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research, 65(3), 199–223. Church, A. H., & Silzer, R. (2014). Going behind the corporate curtain with a Blueprint for Leadership Potential: An integrated framework for identifying high-potential talent. People & Strategy, 36(4), 51–58. Corporate Leadership Council (2005). Realizing the full potential of rising talent (Volume I): A Quantitative analysis of the identification and development of high potential employees. Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board. Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2009). Organization development and change (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Dotlich, P. D., & Cairo, P. C. (2003). Why CEOs fail: The 11 behaviors that can derail your climb to the top and how to manage them. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. How we can learn to fulfill our potential. New York, NY: Ballantine. Gellerman, W., Frankel, M. S., & Ladenson, R. (1990). Values and ethics in organization and human systems development: Responding to dilemmas in professional life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Hogan Assessment Systems Inc. (2009), The Hogan development survey: Overview guide. Tulsa, OK: Hogan Assessment Systems (www.hoganassessments.com) Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York, NY: Henry Holt. Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (2002). The leadership machine. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited. Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (2000). High-potentials as high learners, Human Resource Management, 39(4), 321–329. McCall Jr., M. W. (1998). High flyers: Developing the next generation of leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Allan H. Church, PhD, is the Vice President of Organization Development Global Groups and Functions, and Executive Assessment at PepsiCo. Previously he was a consultant with Warner Burke Associates for many years and worked in marketing and personnel research at IBM as well. On the side, he has served as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, a Visiting Scholar at Benedictine University, and past Chair of the Mayflower Group. He has written over 150 articles and book chapters in both scholarly and applied publications. Church received his PhD in Organizational psychology from Columbia University. He is a Fellow of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science. He can be reached at [email protected]
McCauley C. D., & McCall Jr., M. W. (Eds.). (2014). Using experience to develop leadership talent: How organizations leverage on-the-job development. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Pinault, L. (2000). Consulting demons: Inside the unscrupulous world of global corporate consulting. New York, NY: Harperbusiness. Roloff, K. S., Fudman, R., Shull, A., Church, A. H., & Burke, W. W. (draft, 2014). Then versus now: A comparison of the values, motivators, and intervention activities of organization development practitioners between 1994 and 2012. Manuscript submitted for publication. Silzer, R. F., & Church, A. H. (2009). The pearls and perils of identifying potential. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice, 2(4), 377–412.
Copyright © 2014 by the Organization Development Network, Inc. All rights reserved.
Journal of the Organization Development Network
Journal Information The OD Practitioner (ODP) is published by the Organization Development Network. The purpose of the ODP is to foster critical reflection on OD theory and practice and to share applied research, innovative practice, and new developments in the OD field. The ODP welcomes articles by authors who are OD practitioners, clients of OD processes, Human Resource staff who have partnered with OD practitioners or are practicing OD, and academics who teach OD theory and practice.
Guidelines for Authors Editor to prepare your article for publication. Please be aware that there is no guarantee that your article, even if accepted at this stage, will appear in a particular issue. 3. If your article is accepted for publication you will be sent a PDF proof of the article for your final approval before publication. At this stage you may make only minor changes to the text. After publication, the Editor will send you a PDF of your article and of the complete issue of the ODP in which your article appears. Preparing Your Article for Submission
Editorial Policy The ODP is a peer reviewed journal. Two members of the ODP Review Board review each article and agree whether or not they will recommend the article for publication. The ODP Editor makes the final decision about which articles will be published. Steps in the Review and Publication Process 1. Submit your proposal for an article or your article by email directly to the editor, John Vogelsang, at [email protected]
Please include with your article a 50–60 word biography covering your professional work, specific interest or expertise, educational background, and number of years in the profession. The deadlines for submitting articles are as follow: Summer issue, April 1 Fall issue, July 1 Winter issue, October 1 Spring issue, January 1 2. Two members of the Review Board will review your article. Upon deciding it is acceptable for publication, one of them will email or call you with recommended changes. Once you have made the recommended changes you will work with the ODP
Article Length Articles are usually no more than 4,000 words. Content The ODP publishes applied research, theory and evidence based practice, innovative approaches, and case studies. Our readership seeks clarity about what does and does not work in the practice of organization development. Service to this audience is a key criterion for evaluating submissions. Style The ODP welcomes articles that: »» clearly state the purpose and content of the article »» present ideas logically and with clear transitions »» reflect critically on issues related to the current practice of OD »» include cases, illustrations, and practical applications »» are lively and succinct »» reference sources for ideas, theories, and practices »» include section headings to help guide the reader »» are gender-inclusive »» avoid jargon and overly formal expressions »» avoid self-promotion
While the Editor and Review Board members will work with each author to improve articles for publication, they will only accept submissions that are professionally written, according to current US English writing practices. Citations and References The ODP follows the guidelines of the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (6th edition). This style uses parenthetical reference citations within the text and full references at the end of the article. Please include the DOI (digital object identifier), if available, with references for articles in a periodical. Graphics Graphics that enhance an article are encouraged. The ODP reserves the right to resize graphics when necessary. The graphics should be in a program that allows editing. We prefer graphics to match the ODP’s three-, two-, or onecolumn, half-page or full-page formats. If you have questions or concerns about graphics or computer art, please contact the Editor. Other Publications The ODP publishes original articles, not reprints from other publications or journals. You may publish materials first published in the ODP in another publication as long as the publication gives credit to the OD Practitioner. Policy on Self-Promotion Although publication in the ODP is a way of letting the OD community know about your work, and is, therefore, good publicity, the purpose of the journal is to exchange ideas and information. Consequently, it is the policy of the OD Network to not accept articles that are primarily for the purpose of marketing or advertising the author’s practice.
Copyright © 2014 by the Organization Development Network, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Things are changing in the world of human resources. Human Resource Management is changing. Moving beyond basic transactional functions, your role as an HR professional has now evolved to working with executives and managers to set priorities and guide change for your organization. Drawing upon the research and practice of seasoned Organization Development professionals, Handbook for Strategic HR collects articles found in the esteemed journal OD Practitioner to give you a full overview of the core knowledge and skills you need to play a trusted advisory role in your organization. A compendium of the best thinking on the subject, Handbook for Strategic HR supplies you with methods to help you: see the big picture, think systemically, and strategically identify where best to foster change in your organization; team up with consultants and senior level staff in leading change projects; put employee engagement to practical use in the important work your organization is doing; operate effectively in cross-cultural and virtual working situations; and much more. Featuring 78 articles containing creative approaches, practical tips, and proven methods that will help you add value to your company, Handbook for Strategic HR is the gold standard resource on the important topic of organizational development.
About the Editors: OD PRACTITIONER is the quarterly journal of the Organization Development Network, an international association whose members are committed to practicing organization development as an applied behavioral science. The Handbook for Strategic HR is edited by: John Vogelsang, Maya Townsend, Matt Minahan, David Jamieson, Judy Vogel, Annie Viets, Cathy Royal, and Lynne Valek
compendium of the best thinking on the subject, Handbook for Strategic HR includes 78 articles from the renowned OD Practitioner. It introduces readers to core organization development strategies and skills, giving them creative approaches, practical tips, and proven methods to help them: • See the big picture, think systemically, and strategically identify where best to foster change in their organization • Team up with consultants and senior-level staff in leading a change project • Put employee engagement to practical use and involve “minds, hearts, and hands” in the important work of the organization • Operate effectively in cross-cultural and virtual working situations Comprehensive and practical, this forward-thinking book enables readers to become key partners in leading their organizations forward.
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