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How Top Companies Grow Great Leaders

Have you ever tried to grow and maintain a house plant in a city apartment?Whether you’re a busy executive in the Windy City or the Big Apple, you probably crave nature once in awhile. But it’s not always easy to nurture a plant in a city apartment – each varietal requires a specific blend of light and water. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula

So what do you do? You find an expert and get the right formula for growth for your particular plants.

Creating great leaders is similar, but of course, much more challenging. For optimal growth, each person requires a unique combination of inspiration, camaraderie, challenges, and support to do their best work. And it goes without saying that a certain level of innate talent is required.

Once you have the right people on your team, a great deal of their growth is actually up to you. You create the environment that produces the best leaders – or doesn’t.Don’t worry – it’s not as intimidating as it sounds, but it is important to take deliberate steps to support your all-star employees to reach their full potential.

Start cultivating great leaders today by following my 7-step formula and tuning into the feedback your employees give you – verbally and nonverbally.

1. Find the right talent.

I couldn’t write a piece on growing great leaders without stating what’s obvious, but not always simple.You need to start with excellent raw material.How?Work with an executive recruiter.

Identifying and acquiring top performers requires strong networking and communication skills, and headhunters are the best way to get future leaders on your team, fast.

2. Hold company-wide meetings.

It’s important to bring your company together as a whole at least once per quarter to ensure everyone stays connected to the big picture vision.When employees see the whole system, they’ll be inspired to keep working hard and pursuing promotions.Often, the top performers – who could be great leaders – put their heads down and work late hours, never taking the time to look at the company as a whole and identify unexpected ways they could optimize the system.Encourage people at every level to speak up at these meetings and share feedback, so each employee sees how important their role is to the success of the company.If someone just feels like another head behind a cubicle, they’re going to become disillusioned and disconnected.When everyone sees the overarching strategy, they’ll get pumped up to keep working hard, or ramp it up if they’ve been slacking.

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3. Organize an accountability system.

Right on the heels of those company-wide meetings, ensure you have an accountability system in place where you match up complimentary employees to keep each other on track and inspired.

You may choose to pair high-potential candidates with mentor figures, or simply identify duos with complimentary skillsets to balance and support each other in getting the company-wide mission accomplished on a weekly basis.

Without regular accountability check-ins, people can slip away behind their desks and forget why they started working at your company in the first place.They might start to simply go through the motions rather than proactively thinking about how they can make themselves and the company better on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.Accountability breeds brilliant leaders.

4. Give employees rotational assignments and training opportunities.At this point in the 7-step formula, you’ve definitely identified the high potentials at your company.In fact, they probably popped into your head when this article headline first caught your eye.If you’re priming an employee to become an epic leader, you want them to at least have a working knowledge of every role in their department. In a perfect world, your next leader will have held almost every position.You can do this by rotating them through every role in the department, even if they just observe what someone does for a few hours.This will give them an understanding of the departmental and company strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and they’ll likely identify areas of growth.It’s a great idea to provide training opportunities for your top players as well, so they can continue to grow, refine their existing skills, and serve the company at an even higher level.I recommend setting a monthly budget for continuing ed and requiring that employees send you proposals for trainings and classes they’d like to take.Learners are leaders, and you want everyone on your team to keep getting better every day.

5. Give them regular exposure to the C-Suite and peripheral executive team.

It’s important that potential leaders see their future right in front of them. Expose them to your high-level execs in both work and social settings.Organize executive trainings for your next wave of leaders, and have them attend board meetings, even if just to observe.Arrange casual coffee chats and social events like happy hours, and have your executive team frequently visit your top talent to share what made them successful.A great way to give your C-Suite a platform is through webinars – and it’s convenient for everyone. You can listen in on your commute or while you’re cooking dinner.

6. Be clear about compensation.

Make sure your high potentials know that compensation is based on results, not seniority or politics.By defining clear expectations, you’ll inspire your A team to work hard for promotions, rather than expecting them.If you create a culture where regular salary bumps and title changes are expected, your company will never reach it’s full potential, and employees will just coast by.

7. Celebrate.

You work really hard, and so do your top performers. It’s easy to forget to celebrate the small wins – and even the big ones.So many high achievers brush their accomplishments off as no big deal and immediately look toward the next goal, rather than taking a moment to acknowledge their hard work with a champagne toast or fancy dinner.Create a culture of celebration and positive reinforcement by holding happy hours and dinners when your team hits goals.It’s good for morale, and good for your bottom line.

What does your pool of potential leaders look like today? Do you have the right systems in place to nurture them to grow into the best possible executives they could be?What’s one step you’ll take today to strengthen your strategy for growing great leaders?