Up-skilling- a need of the hour for corporate leaders

A CEO ultimately has to engineer this team’s DNA so it best serves the goals of the organization


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Everybody in the workforce, from MDs to senior and mid-level managers need to upskill constantly if they are to keep up with the technical skills relevant to their job, solve new problems and collaborate with peers to exchange knowledge and ideas. According to a study by McKinsey, this is even more critical in the current times, when about 60% of occupations could see at least a third of their job tasks automated. As per Deloitte, the relevance of learned skills is now about ten years, which means what potential leaders had learned to gain an industry qualification could well already be obsolete.

It is of no surprise that getting to the C-suite shouldn’t be the end of a leader’s growth and learning. Not just C-suite leaders but their executive team members should also be able to collaborate in ways that support the entire organization, its strategy, and its goals. Research’s by leading Executive Search firms paired with decades of hands-on experience with leaders of thousands of organizations around the world suggests that the underperformance of executive teams is a chronic problem for organizations of all kinds. Underperforming executives often struggle to collaborate effectively with each other, fail to take an enterprise view of their roles and don’t work to break down barriers between teams throughout the organization.

The executive team within an organization includes some of the most experienced, successful and savvy leaders. In many cases, it’s a small section of senior executives within corporate who tend to rate their organization’s executive team as being “very effective”- In part because individual leaders often struggle to balance the conflicts that can arise between their functional responsibilities and their enterprise or between the company’s big picture and their individual leadership roles.

A common issue expressed by many executive leaders is that the skills, experience, and traits that helped them reach the top of the pyramid aren’t enough to help them maintain an ideal position of being a top performer within the leadership hierarchy. This is primarily because performance from any executive team requires a different perspective and new behaviors in the ever-changing business landscape.

CEOs typically select executive team members based on functional expertise. For example, they evaluate whether a potential CFO candidate has the skills, knowledge and experience to properly manage and lead the finance function for the enterprise. Inspite of this reality, getting to the C-suite shouldn’t be the end of a leader’s growth and learning.

Up-skilling is thus the need of the hour

In today’s dynamic corporate scenario, executive team members must be skilled to be able to collaborate in ways that support the entire organization, its strategy, and its goals. CEOs must find ways to help executive team members communicate clearly and openly with one another and solve problems together. Above all they must be encouraged to get out of organizational silos, if any, by interacting with team members across various departments or divisions, thereby acting as potential role models for younger resources within the organization.

How an executive team crafts the behavioral DNA drives collaboration or fosters conflict and division. Either way, it’s a CEO who ultimately has to engineer this team’s DNA so it best serves the goals of the organization. Here are few ways in which C-suite leaders can assist their next in line corporate leaders in upskilling themselves-

1. Give corporate leaders opportunities to stretch: Aspiring leaders must be given opportunities to work on a project with people from other teams in order to hone important collaboration and problem-solving skills.

2. Help corporate leaders to stay plugged in: It has been observed that many professionals upskill by reading articles or professional literature, attending conferences, seminars or webinars and listening to relevant online content. Many of them also view content online

(shared by connections), read books and seek coaching/mentorship. Joining LinkedIn groups relevant to their sector is another approach which could be explored. It is thus vital to reiterate the need to follow industry leaders and thinkers via LinkedIn, TED Talks, YouTube feeds, Twitter and other social media.

3. Encourage corporate leaders to join an industry or professional association: Membership of a professional association or industry groups can tick a lot of the boxes for skills and career building.

4. Help them shortlist relevant courses outside of the workplace: Formal courses are used as a way to acquire knowledge and skills by many aspiring leaders.

5. Launch initiatives that foster learning at work: corporates should consider offering free self-learning modules that reflect the skills its workforce must develop. Now-a-days, peer-to-peer learning is a hot trend. Peer-group learning sessions allow employees to learn from each other and explore relevant issues together, which can boost the learning process.

6. Career mapping: Career mapping led by a company’s HR department can help aspiring leaders to develop a plan and focus on upskilling. Career mapping also makes it easier to pivot when necessary to align with changing trends in an industry.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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