General Electric, a company that carefully nurtures its leadership brand successfully, has an extensive process in place, not to mention a spectacular upstate New York campus, Crotonville, which has become a synonym for forging first-class leadership skill building. Susan Peters, vice president of executive development and organizational learning at GE, says that its brand has made it very easy for the Fairfield, CT-based conglomerate to attract the best and brightest. “Our ability to attract people around the world and retain them is very intertwined with our leadership brand.”
But one need not be GE or have its resources in order to develop good people. Anytime Fitness, a $400 million chain of franchise health clubs and fitness centers brings people to an offsite meeting twice a year, but only half the time is spent on company business. The other half is devoted to development and personal growth forums that, in CEO Chuck Runyon’s words, “help you become a better person, or the person you always wanted to be.” Runyon reckons personal development, when coupled with training, will accrue to the net benefit of his company in terms of future leaders. Similarly, Jeff Silver, founder and CEO of Coyote Logistics, a fast-growing third-party logistics ground shipper, spends personal time getting to know new hires in order to identify strengths that can be developed even if Coyote isn’t yet ready to capitalize on them directly. Recently he identified a young person with talent and an ability to converse fluently in French. Silver thinks such talent can be groomed to further the company’s expansion into Quebec.
And let’s not forget how Wal-Mart approaches development. The U.S. CEO of the Bentonville retailer, Bill Simon, a former naval aviator, engaged Damian McKinney, a former commando with Britain’s Royal Marines, to set-up Wal-Mart’s Leadership Academy. It uses a simple principle any company can adapt for its own use: Don’t train emerging leaders for the job they are doing; train them for what they are about to do. The idea behind the step-up process is to stretch people. In Royal Marine Commando training, for example, corporals are never trained to be corporals; they are trained as sergeants. People who have been pushed to think one or two levels up are better prepared when confronted by a difficult or different situation.
Each January, Chief Executive in partnership with Chally Worldwide recognizes the “Best Companies for Leaders.” These are the top 40 global companies and the top 10 private companies that meet our criteria for strong internal leadership development.
We look for enterprises that have a formal process in place; have the personal commitment and involvement of the CEO; display a depth of the leadership funnel as measured by the percentage of senior positions filled by internal candidates; and are recognized by outside sources such as recruiters as places that produce valuable talent.
Companies that wish to be considered for this distinction are encouraged apply online. The questions theselves are instructive in thinking about your company’s methods and procedures.