I recently was trolling some of the leadership boards at LinkedIn and found a recurring topic of how to evaluate and develop potential leaders. There were lots of suggestions, but I found a couple of comments interesting. Obviously I wasn't the only one with a military background checking in on the subject, because comments were made about the effectiveness of leadership training in the military. In fact, one lady pointed out in her research that more good/great leaders appear to come from the military, and she was wondering why.
The solution, at least to my eyes is simple. From the moment a person is designated in a "Leadership" position (or is designated to have the potential for it) he/she is constantly evaluated and reviewed (potential officers in particular); in a manner that is meant to be a growing/learning experience. This is where the Blue and Yellow Cards come in (no it isn't a reference to soccer).
No they are not related to soccer. Officially they are forms 156-4A-R and 156-2-R. You can find them on Google by searching for the form numbers. Go ahead, I'll wait...
Okay, now that you have them, you should be able to see that the first one (blue) is an evaluation criteria for a rater. The second is for reflection from the leader (yellow). These cards were constantly utilized in officer training. Every exercise, every position of authority held during the training cycle was evaluated with these cards, and were evaluated immediately after the event (called an After Action Review, AAR). Here are the benefits of the system:
1. The candidate knows what he/she will be evaluated on. He/She knows in advance what the blue card looks like, and was told in advance of the experience what the expectations where. The goals and criteria are simple and easy to follow.
2. The candidate is required to perform a self evaluation, immediately. He/she must review the objectives of the event, in their own words, and evaluate how he/she met those requirements.
3. Feedback is instant. Not only does the candidate know where he/she thought he/she did wrong/right, but also gets immediate input from a more experienced supervisor, who knows what was expected. This provides a great way to provide input with the most impact. And as young leaders, who doesn't want more knowledge?
4. There is a written record of the events, with the evaluations. These records can be kept on hand to show growth and trends. It also can be useful in determining blind spots of the candidate.
Now, once the candidate actually becomes an officer, these cards are not used. However the AAR still occurs in many areas. The Lesson's Learned are identified, and improvements are determined. In fact, the officer is required to fill out paperwork at the beginning of each evaluation cycle that states what his/her goals are for that period (usually in relation to the boss' established goals, more on that in another blog). How often does this happen in the business world? When you come out of a sales meeting, or a particularly crucial project meeting, do you sit down and evaluate the meeting? Do you review what was said and done, and not improvements? I am willing to bet now.
And what if you have a candidate that could be a stupendous leader, but needs some development. Do you perform the AAR with him/her after important meetings or events? Do you ask him/her to reflect on the activities of the event and where he/she could have had more impact?
I am not saying you should adopt this format. It works great for the military, but probably doesn't cover all the areas necessary for business. Perhaps the cards can be modified; but the CONCEPT is what is important.
Leadership isn't developed in a vacuum. It needs constant evaluation and modification; dependent on the people involved and the situation at hand. If you aren't reviewing your progress (or your candidate's), then how do you know what needs improving?
BTW, in case you couldn't find the cards...