In our series, Raising Up Leaders, we have discussed that 51%+ of any great leader’s job is to develop new leaders. This process of raising up leaders is VITAL to any organization’s long-term success.

In the previous article in this series, we looked at the importance of developing a clear description of the competencies a potential leader needs in his or her role to make it as a successful leader. Today we talk about how to develop and to grow the level of competency in the potential leaders you are developing.

Finding Coachable Moments

In order to develop potential leaders, they must be coached at times they are most open to listening, growing and adapting.  While leadership development is ongoing, there ARE key times in which a potential leader is most apt to receive coaching.

Here are some highly coachable moments:

1. Following a self-evaluation of performance or performance review discussion.

Obviously, a time of formal review or guided self-evaluation is a time your leadership candidate is expecting to receive feedback on the core competencies he or she needs to improve. By structuring the evaluation around the actual competencies he/she will need as a leader, this review can align perfectly to foster this conversation. If the competencies were defined as recommended in the previous article, the competencies themselves can become the criteria of review.

2. After performance has been observed.

A success or failure also creates a teachable moment. When potential leaders achieve a success, praise them for what they’ve done right. This is a highly effective method of coaching. Point out the competencies that they possessed and executed. Often, we don’t realize what made an outcome so successful. Highlighting this helps to reinforce “meeting the competency means greater success.”

Failure is also a great teacher. Rather than lambast a poor performance or outcome, break down the issues into competencies that weren’t in place. Here is an example: “You assumed everyone on the team knew your expectations, but either you could have better presented those expectations or more thoroughly inspected them along the way. Which do you think was the downfall?” By breaking things down to their basic form, potential leaders will realize you aren’t mad at them, and you want to give them the most tools possible for success.

3. When a new task or project will be assigned.

Give a task or project to a staff member that will intentionally stretch and challenge them. Provide your clear reasons for giving them this task as tied to a competency you want to see developed in them. You might say, “I am giving you this project because I want to see you exhibit strong oversight on the budget to make sure there are not exorbitant expenses that get out of control.” This gives the potential leader a focus point, and providing this clear expectation gives them a target.

4. When staff identify and share their career aspirations.

A potential leader might approach you with a desire to increase his/her responsibilities and request a larger leadership role/promotion. This is an ideal time to state, “If you are going to make it to the next level, we need to grow your ability to _______.” You can fill in the blank with any competency you know they need to improve. This clear list of competencies keeps the hope alive within them that they CAN achieve a higher position. It also prevents them ascribing political motivation to them NOT receiving a promotion, because they’ll have concrete reasons as to why they didn’t advance.

Provide Them Multiple Avenues of Competency Growth

The best way to grow a competency is to place potential leaders in a situation where they must use a competency, and you may supply them resources ahead of time, that should they choose, they can take advantage of for assistance. You are looking for self-starters, not those you must hand-feed everything they need to learn.

Here are some great ways to develop competency in potential leaders:

  • Provide on-the-job learning and training. 
  • Place them in new projects/working groups in your organization.
  • Send them to training courses/seminars/conferences in and outside your company.
  • Encourage them to pursue higher education.
  • Provide them resources for self-study.
  • Have them write articles on a competency in which they need growth.
  • Have them write articles on competencies in which they excel.
    Share these articles with your other potential leaders.
  • Learn through networking and discussion groups inside and outside your organization.
  • Join expert groups on LinkedIn.

With each of the above methods, they will need to follow up with dialogue and coaching sessions. These sessions should inspire reflection, and you can question them about their experience to foster this. Help the potential leader see things from different angles. Share from your personal experience, but remember, you are not seeking to reproduce carbon copies of yourself, but to create the best versions of their uniqueness as possible.

Be sure to ask potential leaders what they need from you in order to grow their competency. Each potential leader will require a unique combination of direction (what to do, who to talk to) and support (money, time, opportunities, encouragement). Provide what they personally need to achieve their potential.

Help With Measuring Competency Growth

A tool IS available to help you measure influence related competencies. The Keller Influence Indicator® (KII®) provides a measure of character, charisma and competence needed for strong influence.

The KII® allows you to clearly measure influence competency and then track a potential leaders progress of development and your effectiveness in coaching them.

Give the Keller Influence Indicator® to potential leaders and discover where they need to grow in terms of character, charisma and competence as they seek to influence others. A sample KII® report is available here. A complimentary trial version of the KII® is available for you and your potential leaders to take.


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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina