3 ways to nurture your future leaders

August 22, 2019

By Kreston CEO, Liza Robbins.

Last week I received an email from the chair of a large Kreston firm, telling me that he had stopped going to our conferences.

You would think I would be worried… or disappointed… or upset….

But I wasn’t, at all – because of his rationale:

“I loved those conferences,” he wrote to me, “and I believe I was still highly effective at them. But I deliberately stepped down so that the change in our leadership should be seen, with [our younger leaders] leading the Kreston relationships.”

In other words, he was willing to set aside his own ego, to allow the younger leadership team to develop their own mark on the Kreston relationships.

That’s true leadership!

As I wrote last week, you need a proper succession plan in place, so that your staff and clients are not left struggling when you retire.

A key part involves nurturing your younger staff, so that they are well-equipped to step into your shoes one day.

Recently, I spoke to several young Kreston leaders, including Michael O’Brien of Kreston Reeves in the UK and Mark Winiarski of CBIZ MHM in Kansas, to get their perspective on this.

I also talked to David Levi, senior managing director of CBIZ MHM in Minnesota and Andrew Griggs, senior partner at Kreston Reeves.

Here are 3 essential takeaways from our conversations.

1. Don’t expect leaders to emerge without guidance

Many firms assume that their next partners will simply appear, ready to lead…

…And then there is disappointment and frustration when the next generation is not up to the job.

But amongst the leaders I spoke to, there was widespread agreement that leaders aren’t born, they are developed.

And they need you to show them the way.

Ideally you should have a structured programme to help talented staff members gain the skills they will need to eventually take over.

Let them experience all parts of your firm, so they have an intimate understanding of how it works.

A mentorship programme, where they can watch the way you operate up close, is also a good idea so they can see good leadership modelled to them.

So what is the most important thing to teach them through these initiatives?

See point 2…..

2. Focus on teaching future leaders ‘soft skills’

When leading a firm, technical accountancy skills alone don’t cut it.

The big question is, can they lead others?

This requires what we call “soft skills” – the ability to:

• Inspire and motivate a team
• Develop long-lasting relationships with clients and other stakeholders
• Build a long-term vision for the future of the business
• Make decisive decisions
• Foster a network of peers, who can be called upon for support, advice and for business development purposes

…..And more.

This is what you must help them develop.

And that is exactly what the Kreston Future Leader Programme is for.

The highlight of this programme is an annual interactive workshop where future leaders receive training on the skills needed to lead a high-functioning team.

Launched in 2017, the conference includes breakout sessions and hands-on learning.

Delegates also network with future leaders from other Kreston firms, building connections that will serve them for decades to come.

Please do get in touch if you have promising young leaders who might benefit. I’d be delighted to give you more details!

3. Create a work culture which attracts young talent

Last but not least, foster an atmosphere in your office which young talent wants to be part of…

…Otherwise they will simply move to another firm.

With life expectancy increasing, a typical workplace can include people from the age of 18 or 19 right through to 70 or 75.

This is an enormous range, and each generation will have its own working style, its own attitude to productivity and its own preferences for communicating.

If you try and force everyone to conform to the same style of working (…yours?), it can create misunderstandings, division and unhappiness.

And younger staff might not be able to visualise themselves fitting in, long-term.

So be flexible in your management style, and accommodate the expectations of the younger generation (without alienating others).

This might mean encouraging flexible working, as millennials value a strong work-life balance….

Allowing a business-casual dress code…

Or adapting to tech trends like social media and video….

…In short, developing a culture that these future leaders are enthused about.