Your Organization Just Made An Important Executive Hire. Now What?

The importance of leadership development

We sat down recently with Ted Freeman, an organizational psychologist and leadership advisor for Noto Group clients, and firm CEO Roy Notowitz to talk about the importance of leadership development for organizations and executives. Here are some of the highlights.

How important is leadership development to building company growth today?

Ted Freeman: For background, on the question of the value of investing in the fundamentals of leadership and organizational culture, the debate is over. It’s now broadly understood that what we call Great Everyday Management practices – clarity of vision and strategy, a coaching mindset, clear communication, delegation and accountability, cross-functional collaboration, the ability to productively have difficult conversations, among other core skills – reduce waste in organizations, facilitate better decision-making and enhance productivity.

The key question for organizations now face is how to most effectively and quickly bring in a new leader so they can accelerate and intensify the impact of that leader.

What are some basics that organizations can use to help new leaders accelerate their impact?

Roy Notowitz: Taking the time to build relationships with key stakeholders and understand their perspectives is critical.  New leaders often arrive with a full head of steam and urgency to make change.  That’s fantastic!  AND to sustain their impact, they will need to build and leverage partnerships with others.  Listening to those partners and understanding their goals, challenges and concerns is essential for new leaders.

What other important steps do you recommend for new leaders?

Ted Freeman:In addition to what Roy mentioned about actively engaging with stakeholders, we encourage new leaders to focus on four areas: self, strategy, team and time.

When we talk about “self,” we’re talking about a leader rigorously and honestly interrogating their strengths and weaknesses.  At their peril, leaders often overestimate what they know about their own strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to the new job. The right assessments of technical capabilities and personal style, combined with honest, supportive feedback illuminate blind spots and steer leaders clear of pitfalls.

New leaders also need to clarify their mandate and the strategy to achieve it.  Their mandate is not just what they are managing day-to-day to keep the business running, but what they are being asked to move or change in this new role.  What does the CEO or the board most need to get done? What is the new leader’s role in making that happen?

Only when a new leader has clarity and alignment on the mandate can they create the strategy for achieving it.  That roadmap needs to be clear and simple enough for the leader’s team to understand and it needs to integrate with the plans of other key stakeholders, not simply drive their own vision.  But most importantly it needs to be flexible. A good strategy creates absolute clarity about where the organization or function is headed, but affords latitude to make adjustments as unexpected when inevitable obstacles arise.

Executing that strategy will require a team that is fit for purpose.  Being in a new role is a particularly valuable time to reshape a team, reevaluate whether the right people are in the right seats and assess whether the group has the potential to become a high performing team.  One high-impact exercise for new leaders is to make a simple inventory of the team, identifying for each member the strengths they bring in service of the team’s mandate, development areas to better serve the team’s mandate and the plan for helping the person make an even greater contribution.

Finally, new leaders need to exert some control over their time. They invariably are pulled in many directions, with their time becoming victim to the agendas and whims of others.  Setting priorities and taking a disciplined approach to allocating time against those priorities is essential to staying focused amidst the chaos of the new role.

This is a lot to manage.  How do leaders manage this on their own?

Roy Notowitz:  It is a lot to handle, and it is worth remembering that even the best performers and most elite athletes in the world have support systems – coaches and advisors who help them stay focused and continue to enhance their performance. Sometimes organizations have internal resources to provide this support, and other times they seek external partners. Clients often reach out to us when they need external expertise to reduce the risks associated with a new hire or speed up the impact the new leader will have.

For almost 15 years, Noto Group has helped find exceptional leaders for the world’s most notable brands in the active, outdoor, and healthy living consumer sectors. However, we saw recurring challenges and patterns that go beyond finding the right person for a role.  Adding leadership assessment, integration, development, and coaching services was a natural compliment.  We’ve offered leadership consulting services for over three years now and it has proven to be an effective way for clients to accelerate onboarding and strategic alignment which in turn sets the building blocks (foundation) for the short and long-term success of the leaders we place.

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