As companies deal with the continued brain drain caused
by retiring baby boomers, manufacturing and office-based
businesses are consolidating locations. Satellite or
off-main-campus locations are being evaluated harshly as
downsizing opens up space at the main location. Often this
involves new responsibilities for the leadership team. To be
prepared, organizations need to develop future leaders that
can easily handle the challenges of a combined workforce.
Here are six proven techniques to use.

Identify what's important.
Most executives think they know leadership potential when
they see it, but are hard-pressed to define its
characteristics. Use a combination of assessments to bank
information about your people, including your current
leadership.

Measure the characteristics important in the way they think,
how they act, and what their interests are. Those
characteristics are not easily changed and you probably will
not have the resources to develop someone who lacks a
key characteristic. You need to know what you have to work
within your existing pool and whether you must look outside
to find potential leaders for tomorrow.
Measure their skills, too. Using a 360 degree assessment
of leadership skills will tell you how much work you have to
do, once you have a candidate for development.

Build your "pool of possibles."
The time to bring future leaders on board is now, or sooner!
When you are thirsty, it is terribly late to begin digging a
well. Plan for long-term succession to leadership positions.
Assume some of your possibles will not get there, or will
leave before the process is complete.

Bring your potential leaders on board early.
It may take years for an employee to thoroughly understand
what makes your company and its culture tick. Provide
opportunities for developing leaders to participate in
high-level thinking and decision-making. Give them real
chances to spread their wings and perhaps even fall and
bump their heads. Learning to lead is not a linear process
and a bit of pain is woven into the experience of most
successful leaders.

Pick them up when they fail.
To learn from a fail, most people need help understanding
what happened and realize that we need not fear failing!
Offer an internal mentor or a professional coach, or both, to
help your leaders develop more quickly and surely. A good
coach can cut years off the time it takes to learn to fly and
make sure falls are not fatal, just a little painful.

Reward them for developing.
You are asking exceptional people to work exceptionally
hard and to accomplish exceptional goals. While most
high-potential leadership candidates will be internally
motivated to excel, they will also expect to be rewarded for
their efforts and their growth. Too many businesses have
watched a potential star develop within, only to watch them
depart for greener pastures, feeling unrewarded and
unappreciated in their old home. Make sure they know
where they are headed, but do not save all the goodies for
when they get there.

It is a process, not a place.
Michigan is a place. Leadership is a process. While the
current crop of leadership candidates is pursuing their
development, continue looking for the next ones you will
never discover you have too many!

Related resources:
More "How to" lists.
More about human resources management or leadership.
More business by the numbers here,
Talent: 6 steps to
develop leaders