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Successor Development - The 360 Slam Dunk!

As a sports enthusiast, when I hear the term "360 slam dunk," images of Michael Jordan soaring through the air high above the rim in a Chicago Bulls jersey flash through my mind, which I assume is the case for some of you as well. Unfortunately, this article is not about how to do a 360 dunk a la Michael Jordan but rather the benefit of utilizing a 360 Assessment as a successor preparation tool. The utilization of a 360 Assessment to help identify leadership gaps and coaching opportunities for prospective successors can be an invaluable tool.

Testing your successor in management and leadership situations can provide you confidence in your successor's ability prior to your departure. Additionally, it can provide employees, lenders and other stakeholders an added sense of confidence that your business will be in good hands when you eventually exit. Properly preparing the next leader of a family business is critical and should not be underestimated. In addition to on the job experience, there are tools available that can assist you in preparing your successor. One such tool is a 360 Assessment. A 360 Assessment is a developmental tool designed to obtain honest, anonymous feedback from a leader's peers, superiors, and subordinates on the leader's capabilities as well as their strengths and weaknesses in a variety of areas. By gathering a well-rounded perspective from those that work with the leader, the 360 Assessment will reveal how the leader sees him or herself versus how those participating in the assessment view the leader being evaluated. At times there are stark contrasts between these two perceptions. By conducting a 360 Assessment, you can:

  • Establish a perception regarding senior leadership effectiveness;
  • Identify personal and group leadership strengths and under-utilized leadership assets to leverage for the achievement of organizational goals;
  • Identify personal and group leadership development opportunities;
  • Identify opportunities to ensure development of clarity, consistency, commitment, and culture so that leadership speaks collectively with one voice.

Of significance, the insight and information provided by the assessment tool positions you to develop a specific developmental plan to coach and help your successor leader reach their full potential.

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with the General Manager of a family business who happens to be the successor nominee. This individual has been instrumental in driving profitability since joining the organization; however, increased profitability has come at a price. This gentleman is a dedicated, intelligent, tireless worker who loves to compete. He is also a direct communicator who demands results and has a tendency to utilize a positional leadership style to obtain those results. A "positional" leadership style as described by John Maxwell in the book Developing The Leader Within You, is an individual who uses his or her position to get people to do things. In other words, "I am your boss and therefore you need to do this." This leadership style often times is accompanied by threats and intimidation to get desired results. As you can imagine, there is a small percentage of the population that responds positively to this type of leader. These leaders typically get compliance from their employees but rarely do they get commitment. And there is a big difference! Results are often short lived before employees depart for greener pastures in hopes of being treated with more dignity, respect and trust. Surely some of you reading this article know exactly what I am referring to and have a vivid picture in your mind of a current or past boss.

Despite the potentially harsh caricature depicted above, since conducting a 360 Assessment on this General Manager he has become more aware of his tendency to exhibit positional leadership. By increasing his awareness and providing a development plan to include follow up coaching, this individual is making positive adjustments and is on the path to maximizing his true potential.

Perhaps your successor could benefit from a 360 Assessment like the individual referenced above. Business executives are similar to athletes like Michael Jordan in that in order to get to the next level, they must constantly be looking to improve and hone their skills. It took Michael Jordan years of working on his game before he could do a 360 slam dunk. Properly preparing your successor takes years as well, and there is no better time to begin than today!


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