Last issue, the president of a Calgary-based software developer wrote to ask PROFIT-Xtra readers:
“I’m planning to sell my company in a few years. I want to start grooming two or three people at the company now so that whoever buys it will have some good internal candidates to take over as president. All of my senior people have good technical skills, but I’m not sure which ones might have the leadership skills you need to run a company. Can anyone suggest how I can figure this out?”
Best reader responses
Allan Shaw, Nexx Step Solutions
You’ve indicated that all of your senior people have good technical skills, but you’re not sure which ones might have the leadership skills you need to run a company. The fact that you’re asking the question would indicate that your current group of senior people simply don’t have the skills you seek, for if any of them did, this already would be apparent. It’s time to explore external avenues to find the leadership qualities you require.
Start by listing those key qualities within yourself that you feel makes a good leader and then use this list as part of your recruiting or screening process. Don’t forget to list those skills you also wish you were more proficient in and seek them out in your future president.
Edmond Mellina, president, Orchango:
“It is usually quite easy to assess someone’s true leadership potential when the person has to lead a group through a challenging, high-pressure project or through a difficult crisis. Therefore, reflect on those times when your senior people were in project or crisis leadership roles. Who consistently stood out? Who faltered? From this reflection, it should be quite obvious to you which of your senior folks have the strongest leadership potential.
However, leading a group through a project or crisis is not the same as leading a company. If you feel the two or three folks you have identified as true leaders could eventually grow into a business leadership role, then you need to put a plan together to develop them. You need to provide them with relevant experiences; coach them; and test them along the way. That means you should ultimately give them real P&L responsibilities. Assuming your business is large enough, you should give each of your potential successors responsibility for one or more market segments. In essence you would be creating two or three business units, each with their own leader and P&L.
Coach your potential successors as they get up to speed with their respective side of the business, and on an ongoing basis thereafter. If required, have them attend formal learning programs to support and complement this “real-world” learning. Over time, you should know whether you have someone who could replace you after you’ve sold your company.”
For his answer, Edmond Mellina will receive a copy of The Team-Building Tool Kit by Deborah Mackin.
Watch for another Peer-to-Peer question in the next PROFIT-Xtra.