Everyone deserves to work for a great leader. It’s a statement our President and CEO Paul Loucks makes openly and often to Halogen staff.
While it’s easy to make a statement like this — especially if you’re the head of a successful talent management company like ours — it’s not that easy to live up to. Simply making a statement doesn’t miraculously transform lousy or mediocre leaders into great ones overnight. Creating great leaders is a long and sometimes difficult process, but it’s well worth the effort.
I thought I’d share with you some of the ways Halogen is working to create great leaders, to spark a dialog, and capture some of the best-practices we’ve implemented along the way. I hope they’ll inspire you to share your stories too, so we can all learn from each other.
The path to great leadership is multi-faceted
Our path to great leadership is a multi-faceted one, underpinned by strong executive support. At Halogen we believe that strong leadership is one of the key pillars of our success–past, present and future. We believe that paying attention to leadership in a continually evolving organization will pay off in the long term, and we’re already seeing results.
Over the past few years, we’ve recognized that you can’t just hope people will be great leaders; you have to mold and shape them into being great leaders. And by leaders, we mean managers at all levels of the organization.
As we started to build our framework for great leadership, we wanted a solid foundation from which to grow. We first set expectations and were explicit about them with our leaders. We told leaders what it means to be a great leader, and what behaviors great leaders exemplify.
To that end, we identified what are now our core leadership competencies: three for managers, two more for directors and one more for the executive team.
This means the more senior you are at Halogen, the more leadership matters.
We took a long time deciding on what those leadership competencies should be–in fact we took months. This wasn’t because we were dragging our feet. It was because it was so important to us to identify and define competencies that truly reflected our culture. We really needed to take the time to get them right.
These core leadership competencies are now embedded in our talent management processes–in our job descriptions, our review forms–and are totally transparent to the whole organization. They’re published on our intranet, complete with definitions.
Take a 360 degree view of leadership
And we give all our employees the opportunity to evaluate their leaders’ against these competencies. We make it mandatory for all leaders to have a multi-rater assessment as part of their annual review. We even take it a step further–rather than allowing leaders to select their own multi-rater evaluators, we invite all their direct reports to participate.
This eliminates the natural tendency to select people with whom you have good relationships and exclude those with whom you don’t. We want to see all the feedback–warts and all–because we know we can only improve if we see the full picture.
All this feedback also means we have much more robust performance reviews. It’s easier to rate a leader when you have more information like this. It is a longer process though, and some people end up with multiple multi-rater feedback requests to complete; but we know it makes us better. And we ensure all our leaders have constantly evolving development plans based on the feedback they’ve received.
Create a culture of “no surprises”
One of our expectations is that leaders create a culture of “no surprises”. This basically means that we expect our leaders to provide their employees with ongoing feedback on their performance, progress and development throughout the year, resulting in a “no surprises” formal annual performance review. This is harder than it seems–managers have to be on top of giving feedback and coaching their employees, all the time.
What helps with this are two things: mandated regular 1-1 meetings with direct reports, and using part of our own software, Halogen Feedback Central, to give and track feedback.
Halogen Feedback Central isn’t just for manager-employee feedback, it’s also great for peer to peer feedback, which also allows us to be more transparent with each other.
One key factor for Halogen’s leader development program has been our partnership with the Anderson Leadership Group. We recognized that a cookie cutter approach to developing our leaders wasn’t going to work for us; we wanted something we could embed in our culture, our business practices and our strategy.
So over the past few years, they’ve partnered with us to build a custom leader development program, targeted at different leadership levels, and underpinned by a philosophy that embeds leader development into the day to day operations of our business.
Anchored in action learning, our program combines team learning with practical projects and a peer coaching model that encourages cross-functional interaction and collaboration. At the end of each year, we hold a “Capstone Event” where our leaders present an overview of their experience and the key things they’ve learned.
It’s a great event for participants (and spectators) that allows us to reflect on our progress and to plan for future years.
Raise the leadership bar and inspire accountability
We’re very proud of how far we’ve come on our path to creating great leaders. We’re trying each and every day to develop our current leaders, nurture our future leaders, and hire great leaders. This work has raised the bar on our expectations of leaders and of each other, and gives us an accountability framework that we think will prepare Halogen for even greater things in the future.
I invite you to share your organization’s experiences. We’re always looking to learn and improve from others. What is your organization doing to develop leaders?
For more on leadership development, read Five ways to get your managers on board with talent management.