Relationship CentricA client CEO recently asked me how she could more effectively develop her bench of leadership talent. Here are three best practices I suggest for developing a relationship-centric A-team:

Profile Your Strongest Relationship-developing Leaders Today

When looking at your current leadership bench (direct reports as well as perhaps one or even two tiers down), identify pockets of relationship development best practices. In our experience, they’re seldom exclusive to one individual, so look wide and deep to build an ideal profile for the relationship-centric leader, like you would a puzzle. This will serve as the future state of your bench.

Pick A-players and On-board Them to be Relationship-centric

Use a rigorous and proven process of selection, interviewing, and assessing (not an HR role, by the way), followed by an investment in teaching, assimilating, and setting them onto a relationship fail-proof path. Elevate your mind-set to one that sees ROI from all human capital efforts—search, assessment, on-boarding, training and development, strategic alignment, and, when applicable, outplacement. What aspect of this process couldn’t benefit from stronger relationships?

Invest in Your Bench’s Relationship Development

Leaders who are not willing or able to invest in the development of their bench neglect to do so at their peril. Create the aforementioned profile of a relationship-centric leader, benchmark the team against it, and create individual development pathways for each required role and realm of responsibilities. Remember that relationships are between individuals and people mature in both the art and science of relationships at very different paces. As such, a one-size-fits-all ‘‘let’s pack everyone in a classroom for a week’’ approach seldom works.

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