An envisioned future and brilliant strategy are important elements of business execution, but without transformational leadership your business will never achieve its full potential. Developing a leadership pipeline is a critical priority for any organization committed to achieving a brighter future.

Imagine a reality where you proactively assess the performance and fit of your talent pool, and routinely maximize leadership development within your company.  Imagine if you could say yes to all four statements below:

  • I have a clear view of my company’s leadership pipeline, which is mapped by operating unit and team.
  • My organization’s succession planning is aligned with, and represented on our Talent Map.
  • The Talent Map focuses our people development efforts on our most promising employees.
  • My leaders and I invest less time, and deal more proactively, with non-performing employees.

Can this reality truly exist? Wouldn’t you need a small army of HR professionals to achieve all of this?

In fact, building a Talent Map that delivers all of the above is relatively simple to accomplish and the results are highly impactful. The only barrier is the discipline to make it a priority.

A Talent Map is a strategic tool not to be confused with the more tactical performance feedback process.  But make no mistake, an effective employee performance feedback process is a prerequisite to developing an effective Talent Map.

The Talent Map is an adaptation of the Topgrading framework published by Brad Smart, and the General Electric performance evaluation model.  For illustration purposes, assume you assess employee performance based upon two main criteria (see image below):

  • Does the employee behave consistently with the organization’s Core Values and fit the culture?
  • Do they consistently deliver the results for which they are accountable?

In addition to these 2 performance criteria, all A performers are identified as follows:

A1 – potential exists for promotion to senior level ASAP

A2 – potential exists for promotion to next level ASAP

A3 – no desire or potential for promotion

This is not a grading system for A performers, but simply an evaluation and indication of their future in the company, based upon their preference and capability.

Once a team or organization is mapped, the leadership pipeline, retention issues, and succession options become crystal clear.

By looking at the example map, it becomes clear where you have near-term succession issues and looming retention issues:

  • A2 at the top will get frustrated at the lack of promotion because there is no obvious successor, and will likely further his/her career elsewhere.
  • The A performers reporting to B and C non-performers are already frustrated. Your credibility is being eroded the longer this situation remains, and they are a definite flight risk.
  • This situation worsens over time as you ignore the needs of the A players while attempting to rescue or fix the non-performers.

Performance and Potential

There are more lessons to be gleaned from this example, but these three make the point.

The Talent Map is a call to action.  Reduce the amount of time and attention devoted to poor performers, take action on the leadership pipeline logjam, and increase the time you devote to the development of all your top performers—A1, A2, and A3.

The result will be a solid leadership pipeline, built-in succession planning, more A players, and a culture that rejects non-performers more readily and effectively.

All you have to do is make this a priority, and instill discipline into the performance feedback and Talent Mapping process.

By Tim O'Connor