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Optimum Talks Blog

Inclusive Intelligence: The Secret Ingredient in Succession Management

by Joe Anderson and Mathieu Blais

The benefits of succession management are widely known to organizations and leaders and in light of recent events, the importance of holistic and inclusive talent practices has never been greater. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that effective leadership matters greatly during times of uncertainty and volatility, and those leaders with highly emotional and inclusive intelligence are the future of our organizations.  There is no better time than now to harness this positive momentum and uncover the leadership talent that may previously have not been used to its full potential. We know that some traditional approaches to succession management remain widely used, such as promoting individuals based on a single nomination by their leader. Not only do these practices risk overlooking leadership capabilities required for success moving forward, but they also risk bias, which is something organizations cannot afford to ignore.

 

How Behavioural Assessment Can Mitigate Bias and Foster Inclusion

One-way organizations can mitigate bias and help high potential talent ready themselves for success is to leverage behavioural assessments. Using an assessment tool as part of a holistic succession management process provides the organization with objective data as to a candidate’s strengths, development opportunities, and predictability of success in key roles based on competencies required at varying levels of leadership. This sort of objective data anchors talent conversations in fact vs. opinion and puts known candidates, as well as hidden or underrepresented talent, on an even playing field.

In addition to using objective data as a foundation for succession practices, Karen Catlin identifies some additional actions for more inclusive practices in her book Better Allies, including:

  • Advocate during performance calibration and talent review sessions to ensure talent you personally observe and engage with is represented fully.
  • Sponsor people who are not like you. Speak their name when they’re not around. Endorse them publicly and invite them to high-profile meetings.
  • Be equitable when determining allocation of stretch assignments. Resist the temptation to return to the same individuals over and over again. Test and assess the potential of a broad base of talent through opportunities that will challenge and elevate them.

 

Inclusive Intelligence and Psychological Safety Foster Belonging

The pandemic has shone a bright light on leadership behaviours which have proven to be instrumental in moving companies forward. Of particular note is what we call “inclusive intelligence”. This combination of behaviours is critical for leaders of today and tomorrow and we are now at a point where we can point with relative certainty to what drives it, a list that includes humility, curiosity, fallibility, and developing a growth mindset.

Not to be forgotten is the ability to foster psychological safety. Defined by Amy Edmondson, a professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions or concerns, and that failure must be de-stigmatized. Feeling safe enough to respectfully share ideas and challenge perspectives, even if it goes against workplace norms, can foster greater and more productive collaboration, along with driving a sense of belonging amongst all employees.

 

Setting Future Leaders Up to Ensure Success

About half of newly hired or promoted executives transition successfully within their first 12-18 months. A key reason for this success is the deliberate building of a development runway where candidates have time in advance to prepare for a potential promotion. This runway provides the opportunity to explore and appreciate the realities that come with a position of heightened responsibility and visibility. Regular and robust talent conversations help to ensure that candidates have a healthy amount of time to stretch and develop through on-the-job experience, exposure to sponsors, etc. This approach also allows for the organization to test and assess potential proactively and provides candidates with an opportunity to make the very important decision of whether they are prepared for the leadership challenge.

 

And now, what?

Now, take notes! When considering succession management and the future challenge leaders will face, organizations are wise to assess the degree of inclusive intelligence their candidates possess. They must focus their energy extensively on development and invest towards growing these skills further. Inclusive intelligence is not a soft skill or a “nice to have”; it is mission critical, and its ripple effects are felt throughout any organization.

Research shows that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included. It is critical that organizations give serious consideration to what leadership and organizational success will need to encompass in 3, 5, 10 years and anchor their succession practices in this future reality. This approach not only readies the company and future talent for upcoming opportunities, but it also builds a strong pipeline of talent who can confidently lead in a new reality where equity, inclusion and diversity are table stakes, not a strategic objective.

At Optimum Talent, we have the tools and the expertise to set organizations up for success. We can help you plan and manage leadership successions, and ensure that you develop the right talent, the right way.

Reach us at janderson@optimumtalent.com or mblais@optimumtalent.com

 

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