Julie Benezet, Author, Former Amazon.com Executive, Founder and Managing Principal, Business Growth Consulting, LLC
As more millennials ascend the ranks in the workplace, how to cultivate the next generation of leaders is at the front of most organizations’ strategies. It’s a delicate dance that requires self-awareness from current leadership, Julie Benezet, founder and managing principal for Seattle-based Business Growth Consulting LLC, tells GlobeSt.com. Benezet, a former Amazon.com executive, will be one of the keynote speakers at NAIOP’s CRE.Converge 2017 conference in Chicago Oct. 10-12. She will be addressing the topic “Navigating the New: Leading and Succeeding in the 21st Century.” We spoke with her about formulating a leadership strategy and getting past the uncertainty that leadership presents.
GlobeSt.com: How can companies formulate a leadership strategy?
Benezet: The first thing that should be done is to define what leadership means to your company. Too many companies see it as a generic thing—leaders are supposed to set the vision, and align, motivate and inspire their people. These are good traits, but they don’t address what a company really needs. Where is your company on the development curve? Are you experiencing fast growth, coming out of a recession, repositioning yourself in the market? Are you in a toxic environment where you have to redo the culture? You need to start with that conversation and define leadership for your company—not just leadership at the top, but throughout the company. You have to have the same coordinates: What is your company strategy, its culture and aspirations? What does the company want to be?
Then, you code those into a list of traits that give a profile of what leadership is at your company. That becomes your organizing grid based on which you hire, promote, fire and evaluate. It is your company’s DNA that reinforces the key company growth drivers.
Next, what are the specific skills that would lead to a realization of this vision? What are the things a successful leader will be able to demonstrate to take this company into the future, given what it wants to do? Putting a leadership program together takes time. This is not done on the back of an envelope over lunch. It’s important to involve a lot of stakeholders. The effort is usually led by the human resources department, but a senior executive should own the initiative not only to help identify what is wanted but also to emphasize its critical importance and make sure it happens. Too often, people think of leadership as not in their purview, so they don’t think about it, to the detriment of their organization.
Once you have defined leadership for your company, figure out who would fit into this identity. Who are the people who have your company’s leadership traits or could grow into them? These are the people you sponsor as future business leaders, and for whom you create a program of hard and soft skills—everything from financial understanding to business development to communication, negotiation and conflict management. Be sure that program is consistent with your leadership objectives and regularly reviewed.
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