Identifying and nurturing leadership is one of the biggest challenges L&D teams face–and one of the biggest opportunities we have to make a positive impact within our organizations.
But how can L&D teams pave the way for their talented leaders to make the right impact? And how can we develop a talent pipeline program that sustains a collaborative and consistent culture within our organizations?
These are challenging questions–and I was thrilled to be able to tackle them in my interview with Andrew Foote, Vice President of Learning and Organizational Development at Tricon Residential. Andrew spoke to me about his bespoke leadership pipeline, and how he supports internal talent to step up and steer the way ahead.
Read on to hear about Andrew’s insights, experience, and tips.
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Andrew kicked off our conversation by describing a big challenge Tricon Residential faces in developing and nurturing their leadership talent pipeline.
“Tricon Residential is an owner-operator of roughly about 35,000 single-family and multi-family residences across the United States and Canada,” Andrew explains. “Just like many other organizations, it can be hard to create a collaborative, consistent culture. It’s even harder to help our leaders understand the expectations we have for them.”
“One of the challenges is around creating that effective, successful talent pipeline–and not just in terms of those individuals coming into the organization, but looking at how we build future leaders, too. How do we engage them? How do we grow and develop them? That’s really where we spend most of our time nowadays–creating that pipeline.”
So, with the challenge identified and targeted, how does Andrew nurture and develop this leadership talent pipeline?
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As Andrew describes, he starts by getting inputs from partnerships and industry peers.
“Sure, the talent pipeline is under our custodianship within the L&D world,” he says. “But it’s also a collaborative effort. It’s crucial to get inputs from existing leaders and board directors, including partnering with HR business partners or managers out in the field, as well as other organizational development and talent management peers.”
“It’s not just us facing it alone. We may be the ones driving it, but we’ve got to get all of those inputs from all over the place.”
Andrew starts this leadership development pipeline by looking at the overall culture of the organization. This includes its guiding principles, philosophy, or vision statement–everything that can help employees understand the culture.
“We look at the culture first,” he says. “Then we look at the competencies or the skills and abilities we require from leaders in their roles, and we make sure they are aligned. If there is a disconnect between our culture and the expectations we have for our leaders, we’re not building the right pipeline of future leaders.”
“That’s the most important step to start to move in the right direction.”
Next, Andrew explains that developing internal talent requires the right focus on metrics such as performance ratings, talent assessments, or looking across the succession charts.
“What we’re looking for,” says Andrew, “is not just someone’s overall current performance in a leadership role, but their potential for future performance.”
“With the leadership pipeline, we really should be looking several years ahead to identify who we could potentially support to step into those future leadership roles. What do they need to support their growth and development into that leadership position?”
Finally, Andrew explains that his approach acquires a level of detail that allows for a bespoke development framework tailored to each individual leader.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all deal,” he says. “Even though we’re trying to grow them in a very similar direction, we don’t assume that they are all at the same level.”
“I borrowed some inspiration from the Center for Creative Leadership. They have a model called ACS which is Assess, Challenge, and Support. Setting that as the framework for very bespoke leadership development has been very impactful and effective.”
Phase 1: Assess. Help the leaders understand where they currently sit in their ability to lead using an assessment tool like a 360 tool or a Hogan’s assessment to look at their leadership potential.
“Those really help our learners,” says Andrew, “as future leaders, to understand themselves. It’s amazing how many leaders at that level have never gone through any type of formal assessment. So you see a lot of aha moments.”
Phase 2: Challenge. Instead of a debrief, match the leader with a coach who will engage and work with them long-term on their assessment.
“The coach is going through the challenge phase of helping the leader to understand the outputs from their assessment and then identify targeted areas where they can grow.”
Phase 3: Support. Leaders who have gone through Phases one and two can then get involved as coaches to support those coming up through the program, help them identify blind spots, and ramp up their leadership skills.
“It's a really simple model to lay out,” says Andrew, “and is very simple to explain to the leaders when you’re trying to get them involved in that leadership development.”
Tricon residential’s three-phased talent pipeline program highlights many of the advantages of collaborative learning. By connecting aspiring leaders with coaches who support and accompany them along their leadership journey, the company can ramp up the skills of existing staff and create a collaborative, consistent organizational culture.
That’s Tricon Residential’s three-phased strategy for developing a leadership pipeline. But how does Andrew know that his approach is addressing the initial challenge of fostering and developing leadership?
I borrowed some inspiration from the Center for Creative Leadership. They have a model called ACS which is Assess, Challenge, and Support. Setting that as the framework for very bespoke leadership development has been very impactful and effective.
With the leadership pipeline strategy outlining a clear journey for Tricon Residential’s future leaders, what methodologies is Andrew using to measure the overall success of the program?
“I think measurement, especially in learning, is always unclear,” says Andrew, “It is always growing. It’s kind of like that Holy Grail–if you find it, grab it, don’t let go of it, right?”
“It’s incredibly difficult to explain to the business what that return on investment is that we’re making into an individual or a program. I always try to put that lens of the business leader into my head. So, if I’m asking for $100,000 to invest in a development program, how am I going to explain that to my COO and my CFO?”
Andrew has found that what typically works for company leadership is helping them understand the benefit the company is making out of that investment and the benefit to the actual leader going through the program.
“So, it’s really two different spots where you’re kind of looking for that ROI or that measurable return,” he says.
As Andrew explains, for the individual leader, you’re looking across outcomes such as knowledge transfer in a six or eight-month period of time.
“What amount of knowledge are we able to transfer?” He asks. “Either through coaching the pieces of information and knowledge they’re dropping from their experience, offering activities that leaders are going through when they are coaching with their direct manager and going through shared experiences, and also through peer-to-peer experiences?”
The other indicator Andrew looks for is the level of confidence of the leader as they progress through the program.
“At the beginning, I always ask people to explain to me on a scale of one to five their level of confidence when completing particular tasks. Then, we ask that same question 30 days into the program, two months into the program, and at the close of the program.”
“You should see a growth that is measurable. It’s subjective, but nonetheless, it’s an indicator of understanding whether we’re hitting the mark or missing it.”
Andrew explains that it is important for the business to understand that a change in leadership behavior can be somewhat qualitative.
“You need to ask the leader at various points in time: what are you starting to do as a result of what you have learned? What are you stopping? What are you continuing to do? This way, you can uncover those little nuggets where you are identifying that the individual has identified a process change or an enhancement to improving engagement of their team.”
What amount of knowledge are we able to transfer?
Thanks to Andrew for sharing his experience and knowledge with us!
If you’re looking for more expert insights on how to leverage internal expertise amongst learners, don’t miss our interviews with Shaun Krietemeyer of Opendoor about using peer learning to meet learners where they are, and with Maggie Romanovich of Constellation Brands about flipping classroom training and freeing peer experts.
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