I Want to Develop Somebody… but Who??

Recently, when discussing the details of succession planning
(uh, oh, here he goes again…!) I was asked the following by a colleague:

“What general competencies, skills, attributes or potentials
should we be seeking in someone worthy of developmental efforts, and how do we
determine them in candidates? Are those things different for potential
departmental/functional heads versus those being considered for C-level

My shorter version of that same question: “Who the hell
do I develop?”

First, I believe skills & attributes (or competencies,
if you prefer) are relatively unique to the positions involved. Having said
that, my same triad for hiring easily applies to significant development.

A developmental candidate must bring to the table:

1. Moral and ethical foundations. By now, the person’s
character and belief/value system is pretty much locked in by past interactions
with family, friends, colleagues, and school. They need to bring ethics
appropriate for your position with them…

Look for evidence of successful, difficult decision-making,
and drill into the thinking that took place. Uncover judgment errors and do the
same drilling.

2. Work ethic. This is ingrained in people by the age of 4.
Someone either has it or not. Bring it with you or move along. Examine evidence
of “finishing what you start.” Often times, well-intentioned people
with a mediocre work ethic will promise the moon, and even begin subsequent

Many ‘starts,’ however, will die on the vine. Also investigate
resourcefulness that shows a “can-do” sort of accomplishment

3. Intellect. Remember, you can’t fix ‘stupid.’ You just
can’t. Many have tried in vain before you; learn that lesson quickly and judge
accordingly. They must bring with them sufficient intelligence to perform
future responsibilities without excess, preventable error. I don’t mean an IQ
test, necessarily, but they must have the mental snap to learn what we need

Intellect possessed must match that required by the role.
Repeated mistakes or errors in judgment, inability to grasp simple
decision-making analyses, lack of confidence in personal actions and decisions
frequently point to issues with intelligence.

So, spend some time and effort deciding who you really want
to develop; a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work, and will tire
everyone out unnecessarily. Not every “Manager” has the wherewithal
to be developed into a Director or VP, and certainly not every VP has the
potential to become C-anything.

Cardinal rule of decision-making: Think, reduce, decide.

Don’t make this any harder than it needs to be.

But that’s just me…

Kevin Berchelmann


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