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Choosing Your Next Leader

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Choosing The Right Person

How does a company know whether or not it is getting the person best suited to advance the goals of the company when selecting a manager? The unfortunate truth is that too many companies cannot make a substantial business case for their promotions, especially those made at more senior levels. Persons taped for advancement often are those who meet superficial expectations and might also satisfy certain esoteric criteria set by their immediate superior, thus making them heir apparent. To further bias the promotion process, some of these same companies pretend to have formal leadership succession processes in place that appears to justify their promotions.

Diversity Must Count

It is not by accident that of 1,603,000 United States CEO positions reported for all management, professional and related occupations in a 2014 national labor report, 26.3 percent are women, 3 percent are Black or African American, 4.7 percent are Asian, 4.7 percent Hispanic or Latino. This means white males hold the remaining 61.3 percent. Unfortunately these data do not separate women according to ethnicity, so it’s unclear whether women are counted twice (once as gender and again as race/ethnicity). Nonetheless, these data are astonishing when considering the question of whether or not we are tapping the leadership talent of all our people.

So, what are the implications for companies wanting to promote the best talent to advance company goals? Consideration ought to be given to a full and diverse range of potential talent. Talent from all walks of our American society need to be welcomed into the process through active encouragement and recruitment. Top management must reject the excuse, “we can’t find any qualified ___________s”.

I am reminded of the CEO who when repeatedly asking his human resource person to recruit Blacks for middle management positions, but to no avail, decided to do some recruiting of his own. When he succeeded in attracting several highly talented Black people, he demonstrated very dramatically to the human resource officer as well as the entire company that he was sincere in his goal. He showed exceptional leadership.

Failure to actively recruit, attract, cultivate, and promote people of color into leadership positions in American enterprises is certain to have an impact on the widening separation of class and race in our nation.

So, what to do?

  1. Check the management pipelines – what are the points of entry, how deep is the bench, is there sufficient racial diversity in the pipeline?
  2. Set clear and definitively stated leadership hiring goals. Diversity quotas are unnecessary when policy is to reflect a customer base or a service population.
  3. Identify specific skill sets needed in alignment with stated business goals.
  4. Anticipate the strategic impact of these leadership decisions on the enterprise.
Dr. Billings is a former Honeywell, Inc. human resource development vice president, currently president of Billings & Associates, LLC, an executive leadership coaching consulting practice located in New Albany, Ohio

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