The Trading Partner Forum in partnership with the Australian Food and Grocery Council has confirmed that the Future Leaders Forum will continue this year as a virtual event.
As in previous year’s Touchstone Consulting Executive Search will be sponsoring the event. In the lead up to the program Chris Klingbeil provided his perspective on leaders, leadership and career development.
We know that great leaders never stop learning. Their development continues throughout their careers. How can leaders today and into the future seek out the right opportunities and embed them into their career development?
Yes, I would agree that leaders do keep learning but the key point for future leaders and also those already in senior roles is to continually try push themselves out of their comfort zone. Be laser focused on the areas that they need to improve – and then take action to fill the gaps. Too often, executives stay in their lane, and become experts in only one discipline. Successful business leaders acknowledge the need to turn weaknesses into strengths, taking on roles in other functions, gaining additional qualifications, or simply embracing different life experiences. This not only makes them much stronger candidates, it also highlights that they’re courageous, they’re comfortable not being the smartest person in the room, and they have a growth rather than a fixed mindset.
The value of an experienced and trusted adviser is well documented. Can you provide your views on the importance of a mentor and provide some examples of where you have seen this work well for both the mentor and the mentee?
We’ve found that the most successful CEOs have had mentors throughout their careers. A mentor’s guidance gives an emerging leader a head start, as the mentor can share their own experiences. The relationship should also build the mentee’s confidence in what they’re capable of, which is vitally important as well. If the mentor is a manager, what we’ve seen is that close relationship can also present opportunities that the mentee may not have been offered otherwise, since the mentor will have a deeper insight into capability, potential etc.
Mentors who we have spoken with say that they get as much out of the relationship as the person they’re mentoring. They get to help mould the person they’re coaching, which is really rewarding, and their coaching and development also builds better leaders for their businesses as well, so it’s a win-win for the mentee and their employer.
You spend a lot of time with Boards and C-Suite Executives to understand what they are looking for in potential candidates. How important is to ensure breadth and depth of experience? What advice would you give to future leaders in this regard?
Breadth and depth is absolutely critical, especially when you start taking on more senior roles. Obviously, if you want to lead a function, you need depth in that function to be recognised as the thought leader, but if you have additional experience, that only adds to your ability to see whole landscape. If you want to be a Marketing Director for example, if you’ve had some experience in sales, then you bring that credibility and knowledge to the table when working with the Sales Director and his/her team.
If you’re currently leading a function, and you want to run a business, it’s really challenging to earn that first general management role, if you don’t have a breadth experience in multiple functions. Historically, executives have been taught to climb the corporate ladder by being promoted through their functional strength. It can also maximise their earning potential in the short term as well, which can be a trap for someone who wants to run a business in the future. Our advice to aspiring general managers is to take the sideways step, gain the knowledge, and you’ll separate yourself from the pack.
If you need additional qualifications, take the time and do the work, early in your career. You’ll be rewarded in the long term with the general management role you are striving for, and the remuneration you were seeking as an emerging leader will take care of itself.
What are your views on longevity of employment and its importance in career path development?
We focus on candidates staying in their roles long enough for us to see the full cycle. In the first couple of years, you’ve set the strategy, executed the strategy, and you’re seeing the impact, but it’s in the third year and beyond when you really have to live with what you’ve built. Was it sustainable, or was it just a short term win that fell away over time? Without that length of tenure in a role, it’s really difficult for a future employer to assess whether you were ultimately successful or not, and therefore your future potential.
In terms of longevity, if you’re with an employer that invests in its people and believes in developing careers, having a solid 8+ years with a business is ideal. It enables you to build relationships, personal brand and equity, as well providing the time to build a body of successful work, over hopefully at least a couple of roles.
The Future Leaders Forum is for fast moving consumer goods and supermarket retail businesses. It inspires and educates young professionals and emerging leaders, provides a motivational reward for great accomplishments, and is an investment in your organisation’s future and the future of our industry. More details here.