#LeadershipNotes: When Next-Gen Development Becomes a Burden

I was shocked to hear of a handful of larger companies in my area who have lost a handful of developing young leaders. By lost, I mean, who have either quit, moved, been let go for “economic reasons”, or just gone in general.

The Great Divide

There seems to be a great divide between companies who grasp the idea of succession planning and developing the next generation (next-gen-dev) of leaders – and those who simply find it a burden. Numerous colleagues of mine have shared some great insight into their “plan of advancement” in their organizations; some even from day one! The great divide is truly a wide-gaping canyon –  On the opposite spectrum of a plan from day one of employment, there are organizations who are losing or dropping their next-gen workforce like dead flies; and it has little to do with the skillset and work ethic of that group.

The Issue Is Simple

Time, Training, and Change are key – for the organization. Yes, that’s right. Companies, realize this: your next generation of leaders WANT you to invest in them, they WANT to be trained to become the next “you”, they WANT to champion the change that you want to see for the longevity of your organization … BUT … you must put forward the FIRST effort. Innovative thinking and creative approaches to next-gen development, and the good ole’ necessary “want to do something’ different” has to ensue from the organization’s seat. Too often, the exhaustive pursuit of short-term goals, like adding to the bottom line, being too busy with projects, or fear of the unknown, are common excuses for lack of developmental training in others.

Next-Gen-Dev: Don’t Put A Timer On It

Next-Gen-Dev doesn’t just “happen” and it’s not enough to rely solely on natural leadership skills that someone may possess; this is naive. Investment is a requirement on behalf of the organization. Next-Gen-Dev is not a microwave solution to building leaders for your company; it is a Crock-Pot of learning, making mistakes, capacity building, learning, making mistakes – layer after layer. Here in-lies the difficulty companies have – letting TIME do the work.

Next-Gen-Dev: Train The Willing Trainer

Inc. Business published a great article on this topic, so I’m not going to regurgitate the words of it. In a nutshell, top-level and c-suite executives must be willing to LEARN to train – the “want-to-train-others” mentality must set in. An important aspect of this has undertones of servant leadership associated with it. As a leader, are you willing to put aside your own agenda for the sake of pouring into others?

Next-Gen-Dev: Change The Culture

The next-gen of leaders can help you with this, but again, this mindset shift has to come from the core internal group of leaders. The culture of 24/7-wind-and-grind has to change to create a culture of time and space that allows for pouring knowledge into the next-gen of leaders. This generation is becoming less of the watch-and-do generation, and more of the train-and-do. Companies that grasp this, are at the forefront of ensuring their longevity because of their investment in creating followers and supporters of the big picture.

The Statistics Paragraph

Consider the following. By the year 2020:

  • Boomers will make up less than 20% of the Western workforce; older Boomers (born before 1955) will be less than 6%
  • Second-wave Millennials (those born 1990-2000) will make up as much as 24% of the Western workforce
  • In younger parts of the world, those born in 1990 and later will make up more than 60% of the workforce

Source: https://blog.shrm.org/blog/developing-the-next-generation-of-leaders
(HR Leaders: the link above is the HOW of getting the ball rolling with next-gen-dev!)

CFO: “what if we invest in our people, and they leave?”
CEO: “what if we don’t, and they stay?”

One thing is for certain, organizations who fail to invest in the next generation of leaders successfully invest in their own demise.


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