The old adage, “Great minds think alike,” may be true in some cases, but when it comes to your C-suite, think again. Not only does a diverse leadership team create higher profits and earnings per share, more engaged teams, and increased creativity and innovation, but it also creates better results for the company, individuals, and society at large, says Fritzi Woods, president and CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF).
In general, Woods says there are three “Cs” to creating a dynamic leadership pipeline: content, competency, and connection. She says content isn’t just the things that people learn on the job, but it’s about learning the right things at the right job to prepare potential leaders for advancement. Competency is made up of the abilities that produce a good leader—someone who engages with employees and consumers, creates a brand vision, inspires and motivates others, and delivers results.
Finally, connection, which Woods says is the most critical “C,” is about having the right advocates, sponsors, and coaches in your corner. While the coach is someone you share your strengths or weaknesses with, she says, “The advocate is someone that knows your skill set and your career desires well enough to advocate for you in the room when you’re not present.” In addition, sponsors are the people who ultimately have the power and influence to get you the job you’re gunning for.
While the three “Cs” are most critical for high-level execs, they also apply to leaders at every level. For example, a store manager may find that competency—delivering results, listening and communicating, and putting together a high-performance team—is most important, followed by content (learning all of the areas of the field, from front-of-house to labor and payroll). “Content has to be ever-evolving so [they] can be prepared to take on that next role.”
Woods says CEOs should keep each of these components in mind for one simple reason: They have a tendency to hire people they know and are familiar with. She says you have to be connected with the right talent—or at least the people who know the right talent—to develop a succession plan for your C-suite. Leaders should ask, “If one of these people for whatever reason leaves my table, am I really strategically connected with the best talent out there, and do they have the right experiences to deliver results?”
Unfortunately, Woods says women are one of the biggest missing pieces in a diverse and dynamic leadership pipeline. Although the number of women in the workplace continues to increase and women do well in initial leadership positions, Woods says their presence drops off significantly when it comes to high-level, C-suite roles. In her work at the WFF and in her Dine America presentation, it’s one of Woods’ primary goals to teach CEOs the importance of creating a dynamic talent pool that takes women into account.
When working with CEOs around the industry, Woods says she asks them to name the 10 most high-potential women in their pipeline. “And when I say in, I mean they are getting the right experiences, they are good leaders and they have potential to better leaders, and you know they’re strategically connected to the decision makers at the next three levels,” she says. If leaders are unable to do so, it could ultimately hurt the company, Woods says. “Not investing in that costs you money.”
By Mary Avant