Move Full Speed Ahead on Leadership Development

Nancy Hammond should stick to her position and keep hammering away at her colleagues at the Economic Coordination Administration (ECA). The stakes are high. The future of the ECA will depend largely on the deputy administrator's ability to get her colleagues involved in jointly managing human resources for the agency as a whole, not just for its individual components.

Hammond's colleagues, Tremaine and Koltmyer, represent the old school of human resource management-each unit managing its own personnel for its own needs, rather than for the whole agency's needs. The confidentiality objections appear to be a delaying tactic. Hammond should reiterate that a meeting of the agency's 13 principal associates is not a public forum and that each associate should pledge to keep the meeting, discussion and materials confidential. That is the responsibility of top leadership.

After the break, Hammond should step back and make clear her rationale for developing an executive succession plan for the ECA:

  • The agency is facing a leadership crisis as more of its senior managers become eligible for retirement.
  • There is no system in place to identify and develop the agency's future leaders.
  • Identifying future leaders is the joint responsibility of all top leadership team members.

Hammond should reiterate her response to Koltmyer, that the point of the meeting is to inform top management about high-potential individuals. She should tell Koltmyer to be ready to discuss individuals from his organization whom he identified as having high leadership potential.

Repeating the need for confidentiality, Hammond should have each director make a presentation describing the individuals they identified as the agency's future leaders.

After the presentations, Hammond can drop her bombshell: The Economic Coordination Administration, under her leadership with the assistance of the human resources development chief, is launching an executive mobility program for the individuals identified as having high leadership potential. The objective of the program will be to create a corporate identity for the agency's future leaders. Program participants should view themselves as ECA corporate executives concerned with the agency as a whole and be knowledgeable about other units as well as their own.

Hammond should request two lists from each director for the next meeting: (1) nominations of individuals from their organizations to participate in the program and to take a one-year mobility assignment in another ECA organization, and (2) lists of individuals they would like to recruit to their units for one-year assignments.

This request will demonstrate Hammond is serious. She must make it crystal clear that her interest in executive succession isn't a passing whim. If Hammond backs down based on objections raised at the meeting, regaining momentum for the initiative will be difficult. Full speed ahead.

Mark A. Abramson, chairman of Leadership Inc., is a faculty member at George Mason University's Department of Public Administration and a contributing editor for Government Executive. His e-mail address is abramson@leadership.com.

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