Leveraging The Leadership Pipeline

It’s not a new book. The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company has been around since 2000*. However the valuable concepts in it – and there are many – ring just as true today as they did when it was first published.

The authors, Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel, outline what they refer to as “the natural hierarchy of work that exists in most organizations (the focus here is on managerial-leadership work rather than technical or professional contributions). In a large, decentralized business organization, this hierarchy takes the form of six career passages or pipeline turns.”

The authors point out, and elaborate in each chapter for each passage, upon how the change in job requirements translates into new skill requirements, new time horizons and applications, and new work values. Understanding what those new expectations become, and how those new behaviors should be manifested after each turn in the pipeline is incredibly helpful for many stakeholders, including:

  • The PERSON making the transition
  • The manager(s) of the person making the transition
  • The HR Business Partner of the person making the transition
  • The Talent Management / Talent Development professional supporting the organization with individuals making these types of transitions
  • The Learning & Development professionals designing programs to help increase the effectiveness of individuals making these types of transitions
  • An Executive Coach called in to assess a troublesome situation, OR to help a rising star become successful at the next level

I have worked extensively with individuals who have successfully navigated the turns from Managing Self to Managing Others. It’s when they make that turn to Managing Managers (or in some smaller organizations, the turn to Functional Manager) that they often find themselves in over their heads.

All of their tried-and-true ways of working don’t cut it anymore and they feel like they are drowning. But are afraid (and/or embarrassed) to raise their hand and ask for help. Sometimes others can see this happening and get them the support they need. Other times, the executive’s team suffers for extended periods because the person struggles with:

  • Still trying to do it all themselves – They haven’t figured out what the right level of detailed involvement should be (or NOT be, as is more often the case).
  • How to best allocate their time effectively – More hours at the office (or doing work in general) does not always equal more productivity, and it certainly generates burnout and reduced employee engagement.
  • How to plan and forecast their and their team’s work priorities – Perhaps they used to focus month by month and now they should look ahead quarter by quarter. Not projecting this way results in (what feels like) endless fire drills that, in actuality, could be prevented.

Do any of these scenarios ring true for you? Someone you know? Someone you work with? Perhaps you could share this blog post with them. Perhaps you could share The Leadership Pipeline with them – or at least a summary. Many times I have shared at least a chapter with executives I’m working with and asked them to read just ONE chapter (maybe on your next flight?) because they get overwhelmed at the prospect of reading the entire book.

Bottom line: If you find yourself or one of your team members in one of these situations, run – don’t walk – run to get support. You won’t regret it! You know you want to feel like you can breathe again.

Betsy Winkler is a Partner at People Results. She can be reached on email at bwinkler@www.people-results.com or on Twitter at @BetsyWinkler1

*A revised edition was published in 2011, but my marked up, highlighted copy is dated 2001.