Developing Agile Leaders

The 2016 US Presidential Election brought heightened uncertainty about the Trump administration’s policies and political impact on the business world, and business leaders face a widened range of potential scenarios – both positive and negative – that could result. Unfortunately, few organizations are prepared for the change.

The old adage rings true that change is hard; employees tire of having to adapt over and over, so it’s no wonder that we see a great deal of change fatigue in organizations. ExecOnline’s Trump and Leadership Survey assessed current sentiment and perceptions around this incoming administration across 246 executives from 15 industries. Although 78% of corporate leaders surveyed anticipated making significant changes to their business strategy as a result of the election, they also reported serious barriers; 83% frequently observed their employees resisting change, and only 43% were considered effective at creating buy-in for change. To enable flexibility and change readiness in your organization, having the right talent strategy is critical.

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Develop Agility Across Your Talent Base, Not Only in Your High Performers

Forward-thinking companies are prioritizing not only scenario planning, but also talent development. In this shifting environment, organizations need to create flexibility in their teams and organizations in order to adapt to the potential scenarios – both positive and negative. “In this economic environment…organizations are recognizing that (change agility) is a core competency that they must have all the time,” says ExecOnline CEO Stephen Bailey. It “will increasingly separate high performing companies from other companies.”

“[Change agility] will increasingly separate high performing companies from other companies.”

Given the need for agile talent, it may come as no surprise that over 80% of organizations have a formal or informal HiPo (High Potential Employee) programs, and many are using such programs to boost agility in their organizations. For example, some recent research from CEB suggests that creating agile processes around HiPo programs can boost leadership strength more than simply identifying agile individuals. However, much evidence suggests that in general most HiPo programs fail to deliver, and companies struggle to identify their HiPos in the first place.

Indeed leadership development is a crucial component of success, but more effective strategies focus on developing agility and change readiness skills broadly throughout the workforce – not just among a handful of High Potentials. One old adage is that change fails in the middle of the organization. If that’s the case, building change capacity broadly in the middle of the organization will pay huge dividends compared to more selective HIPO programs only. Leading organizations are broadening the scope of their development programs by taking advantage of online technology to deliver live, virtual learning experiences at scale. To learn how ExecOnline can help, check out our course in Accelerating Change Readiness and Agility.

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