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6 Questions That Help You Find Your Next Leaders

by Richard Lepsinger

posted in Business

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Take a glimpse into the future and try to imagine your company three years from now. Who are its leaders? If you had to select them today, could you make an accurate prediction?
We're doing business in an environment that's much more fluid than it was just a generation ago. Employee turnover is increasing across the globe, with more than 161.7 million workers expected to leave their jobs this year, according to a recent study of more than 700 million employees conducted by the Hay Group and the Centre for Economics and Business Research. That's an increase of nearly 13 percent in the past two years.
Higher turnover makes it even more critical to have a strong bench of qualified people ready to take charge when the situation demands it.
Unfortunately, succession planning is often an afterthought at many companies. Identifying your next leaders tends to fall into the "important, but not urgent" category.
It's a significant undertaking that seems intimidating-unless you break it down into smaller steps. One of the first steps is to evaluate your own high-performing employees.
Not sure where to start? Don't worry; we've done the homework for you.
There are many characteristics that become apparent through a thorough assessment process that includes interviews, tests and role-playing scenarios. All of these methods are equally important to the process. However, if you're just beginning to assess potential leaders, there are a number of questions that are particularly helpful in revealing characteristics such as:
• Good judgment and decision-making
• Trust and credibility
• Strong time management skills
• Communication skills
• Accountability
Based on our research, we wanted to share six critical leadership questions to help you get started.
1. Please provide an example of a time when you received constructive feedback. What was the situation and what did you do with the feedback?
This question assesses employees' openness to feedback and change. Employees who struggle to recall a specific instance may not be receptive to feedback or are not being honest about feedback that was less than positive.
Employees should also demonstrate they did something to change behavior as a result of the feedback.
2. Describe a time when you were faced with significant obstacles and how you handled them.
Everyone faces obstacles; strong leaders find a way to turn those obstacles into opportunities. Listen to how your employees describe how they react to situations. Did they give up and get frustrated or look for another way to accomplish their goals?
3. Describe one misconception others have of you.
Good leaders are well aware of their strengths, weaknesses and how others perceive them. They may make an effort to change negative perceptions others have of them, but they won't compromise their core values or character just to please others.
Listen carefully to how your employees answer this question. Are the negative perceptions qualities that could be interpreted as positive attributes?
Someone who is perceived as "too serious" or "too outspoken" may show more leadership potential than someone who doesn't take his work seriously enough or seems too timid.
4. What gaps in your experience and skills would you like to address over time?
Strong leaders are on a continual quest for self-improvement. They know exactly where their skill gaps are and what they need to do to fill them. If an employee can't think of a specific answer to this question, he or she probably hasn't given it enough thought. That may not be a good sign of a future leader.
5. Describe a situation in which you had to build and/or maintain a working relationship with a party that was particularly challenging.
Employees might describe a difficult relationship with a boss, peer, work team or customer. Focus on how well they were able to manage their emotions and communicate effectively when faced with tension.
This can give you a good indication of how they deal with conflict, an essential part of leadership.
6. Describe a situation in which a new role or job assignment required you to learn new knowledge, skills or abilities quickly.
Effective leaders are fast learners who jump at the opportunity to learn new skills or work in a different specialty area.
Employees should be able to give you detailed examples that show they can take initiative.
These six questions reveal important traits that can separate your next leaders from those who aren't yet ready for a leadership role or work better as contributors.
About the Author: They aren't the only questions you should ask, nor should you rely on interviews alone. OnPoint offers a variety of executive assessment programs and programs to develop high-potential employees so you can establish a strong bench of potential leaders.
Learn more about the tools we offer to find your next leaders.
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