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Developing Future Leaders | Best Practices & Challenges

By Published On: May 16, 2024

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In today’s fast-paced business environment, developing future leaders is more crucial than ever. It goes without saying that effective leadership is essential for companies to maintain a competitive edge.  Chris Gaffney, Mike Ogle, and Rodney Apple explore the significance of nurturing the next generation of leaders within organizations. They discuss why leadership development should be a strategic priority, best practices for cultivating future leaders, and the measurable impacts of these efforts on organizational success.

The Importance of Developing Future Leaders

Leadership development is not just an HR function; it’s a strategic imperative. Organizations with robust leadership development programs are twice as likely to outperform their competitors financially, according to a Gallup poll. Chris Gaffney emphasizes the importance of robust learning and development tactics that create effective environments for developing future leadership opportunities. This approach not only drives employee engagement but also ensures a healthy succession plan and organizational resilience.

Gaffney shares a compelling story about one of his mentees, whose first leadership experience was challenging but ultimately formative due to the supportive guidance of their manager. This highlights the critical role current leaders play in nurturing potential leaders, ensuring they have the opportunity to develop and succeed.

Identifying Potential Leaders

Recognizing future leaders involves observing certain traits and behaviors. Gaffney, Ogle, and Apple outline several key indicators:

  • Initiative and Self-Direction: Potential leaders often take initiative beyond their direct responsibilities and are self-directed in their tasks.
  • Positive Influence: They are a positive force among peers and cross-functional teams.
  • Commitment to Development: They show a relentless commitment to self-improvement and are willing to train and mentor others.
  • Capacity Management: They are adept at managing their own workload and show potential to balance the capacity of others.
  • Team-Oriented: They contribute to team efforts and often take on work for the good of the team.

Mike Ogle adds that identifying these traits early, especially in young professionals or students, can be instrumental in developing future leaders. He suggests using team assignments and real-world projects to observe these behaviors.

Challenges in Leadership Development

Not all individuals are naturally inclined to be leaders, and some may struggle with leadership roles. Rodney Apple points out several common traits of ineffective leaders:

  • Lack of Self-Awareness: They are unaware of their gaps and blind spots.
  • Defensiveness: They react defensively to feedback and fail to take development plans seriously.
  • Entitlement: They believe tenure entitles them to promotions rather than earning them through performance.
  • Poor Coachability: They struggle to accept advice and mentoring.
  • Self-Centeredness: They focus on personal gain rather than team success.

Effective leaders need to exhibit humility, selflessness, and a willingness to learn and grow continuously.

Developing Future Leaders

Developing leaders involves a combination of structured training, mentoring, and real-world experience. Chris Gaffney highlights the importance of creating a development plan tailored to each individual’s needs and aspirations. This plan should include:

  • On-the-Job Training: Practical experience is crucial for developing leadership skills.
  • Mentoring and Coaching: Both internal and external mentors can provide valuable guidance and diverse perspectives.
  • Cross-Functional Teams: Assigning potential leaders to cross-functional teams helps them gain broader organizational insights and develop collaboration skills.
  • Formal Training Programs: When available, structured training programs can provide foundational knowledge and skills.

Measuring the Impact of Leadership Development

Measuring the success of leadership development programs is essential to ensure their effectiveness. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and surveys can provide valuable insights. Rodney Apple emphasizes the importance of anonymous feedback mechanisms to gather honest opinions from team members. Additionally, regular performance reviews and development conversations can help track progress and identify areas for improvement.

Chris Gaffney suggests proactive steps, such as having potential leaders meet with future hiring managers for informal discussions. This helps ensure they are prepared when opportunities arise and allows for continuous feedback and improvement.


Developing future leaders is a strategic priority that requires deliberate effort and commitment. By identifying potential leaders, providing them with the necessary training and support, and measuring the impact of these efforts, organizations can ensure a steady pipeline of capable leaders ready to drive success. As Chris Gaffney, Mike Ogle, and Rodney Apple emphasize, the benefits of effective leadership development extend far beyond individual growth, contributing to overall organizational resilience and success.

By prioritizing leadership development, companies can build a strong foundation for future growth and innovation, ensuring they remain competitive in an ever-evolving business landscape.

Host: Chris Gaffney

Co-Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple

In this Episode:

The 18th episode of our Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series!

Explore the critical role of soft skills in leadership. In this engaging session, titled “Leadership Soft Skills,” our hosts delve into the nuanced elements that differentiate successful leaders in today’s complex work environments. Discover actionable strategies to combat common workplace challenges like procrastination, fear of failure, and the art of giving and receiving feedback. Chris Gaffney brings a wealth of experience and provides rich, real-life examples of how soft skills can be developed and applied to enhance team performance and personal growth. Whether you’re a seasoned leader or aspiring to lead, this episode offers valuable insights into transforming leadership practices with soft skills at the core.

What is the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series?

The Supply Chain Careers Leadership series expands its previous content format into a more in-depth focus on leadership development. This program is a series of 15+ episodes that are hosted by our very own supply chain executive, Chris Gaffney. These episodes explore subject matter and topics that relate to excelling as a leader in the business world, much of which Chris has gleaned as VP of Supply Chain at Coca-Cola. Familiar faces and fellow supply chain leaders, Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle chime in with their experience and knowledge, all of which can be used by supply chain leaders to develop and advance their careers.

[00:00:00] Chris Gaffney: Welcome to the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Podcast, and I’m your host, Chris Gaffney, and I’ll be joined by my co hosts, Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple. We’re excited in this series to talk about a number of key impact areas for leadership and development for supply chain professionals, students, and employees.

We’re going to talk about how you can work more effectively as an individual. To create your own space for development, how you can differentiate in the workforce, how you can chart your own path to grow and develop, and how you can guide your own career. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

[00:00:38] Mike Ogle: This podcast is made possible by SCM talent group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm.

Visit SCM talent group at scmtalent. com.

[00:00:51] Rodney Apple: Welcome back to the supply chain careers podcast. This is our leadership series. Where we feature Chris Gaffney as our host. I am your cohost, Rodney Apple, along with Mike Ogle. Thanks for joining us today. This is episode 18 of our leadership series, creating the next generation of leaders.

In this episode, we’re going to explore the crucial role of current leaders in nurturing the next generation of leadership within their respective organizations. We’ll delve into why leadership development should be a strategic priority, the best practices for cultivating future leaders, The impacts of these efforts on organizational success and much more Chris, could you give us an overview of this theme?

How it fits in with the rest of the leadership series? And then we’ll delve into the topic.

[00:01:50] Chris Gaffney: Happy to do that. Rodney. We started the series. With a chunk of episodes that were really about self development and there we think are enduring and relevant for anybody, whether they be an individual contributor or a leader and then the 2nd, 10 has been focused on leading others.

And we progress through that. 1 thing is clear. In that, if you are a leader of others, you are entrusted with the development of those people and inevitably a subset of the people who work for you have aspirations to lead others and some of them may be exceptional. And what I would say is that self aware leader.

Recognizes that he or she may have a future chief supply chain officer or CEO in their, in their midst. And that’s a big obligation to ensure that person has the opportunity to develop and mature so that they could get to that place. And I can tell you of my own leadership experiences, I’m most proud of the fact that there are people who have worked for me.

Who now are CEOs of organizations. And so I look back on that and say, I hope I was careful with that person’s development so that I helped them. But I think the flip side of that is, if you weren’t careful about that, the world missed out on someone who could be an important leader in the field or in society.

So that’s, that’s a broader piece of it. So that’s why I think this episode is important. And then. I’ll give you another story about 1 of my mentees and their 1st experience leading others. So they had become an individual small team leader and that 1st leadership experience is very tricky. Their manager who had who led a larger team.

Really played a pivotal role in early challenges that this person had because they walked into a team with a performance management issue that had already existed. And that’s tough for someone right out of the gate and a leader who is not really forward thinking could just say tough luck go figure that out.

But this leader was really supportive, really guiding, let the manager go figure. Manage those interactions, but always had her back. And it was really formative and an accelerator for the mentee and their development as a leader. So I think that’s the premise for why this is a worthy topic for our series.

[00:04:32] Mike Ogle: And Chris, as we dive into this 1st segment, where we talk about the case for developing leaders. Internally, I think one of the first things that comes to mind for me is an analogy that I’ve used, whether it’s my time on the industry side or on the academic side to tell people about an analogy about football head coaches for those who are into sports, but I love it when they end up showing occasionally.

Hey, this particular head coach has all these other head coaches around the league that they have raised up and got to the point where their head coaches. And you see the offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, special team coordinators who are sitting at the top. Just below the head coach and they tend to get developed and they move on to other places, or they may become the head coach and they groom them to be able to take their position.

Everybody can’t be the head coach and move up into that spot, but you’re trying to raise them and provide all these people different paths to get there. When supply chain, I talk about whether you’re sourcing, making stuff, delivering stuff, whatever those positions are within supply chain, you’re trying to take those people And you’re measuring them as well.

These coordinators, how are they developing their people? What was their record in being able to bring people up who were even receivers coaches or a defensive line coach? So I think that kind of measure, being able to look at that and measure people on what they’ve been able to do to develop leaders internally is a tremendous measure that we should concentrate on.

[00:06:06] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I would say we clearly. Believe developing in leaders internally has a lot of value to it. And I think that’s our experience. I think there are good statistics on this. As well, and we saw a Gallup poll that said organizations with strong leadership development are twice as likely to outperform their competitors financially.

And there are many industries that are well known for structured management rotation programs and, and. Those that have endured for a long time have delivered a lot of results. In my day, General Electric’s rotational program was very well known, and I know a number of people who went through that program and moved into large positions in many different organizations.

So, I think, I think we think it’s important, but I also think we believe the statistics bear it out. Now, what I would say, from a couple different perspectives, in my experience, If you had a manager who was known to develop leaders. That was a clear attractor of people who wanted to work on that team and stayed on that team.

And in some cases, it even helped with that internal competition that they’re that person had a record of developing multiple leaders, even amongst peer groups. So you were able to manage people’s patients in the sense that. People on this team end up in leadership positions. And even if I have to wait my turn a little bit, that’ll be okay.

I think that’s important. And I think, obviously, organizationally, a leader who has seen to be developed, developing good future leaders typically gets well regarded by more senior leadership by that because that’s clearly a driver, not only of employee engagement, But of helping the organization have a healthy succession planning and have overall kind of organizational resilience.

I just think there are a lot of positives about it. Now, I would say in our experience. In the past couple of years, as the market has been tight, what we do know is bringing in mid level leaders in particular, in many cases, bringing in senior leaders from the outside is hard for a variety of reasons. A, they’re just not that many.

Good ones, and there’s competition for those people. I would also say vetting them is really hard because you’ve got to be right. If you’re going to bring in a leader into an organization mid career. To teams where there are a lot of people who have grown up in the organizations clearly, there are cultural differences that make the success of an outside leader.

It’s harder and it’s harder to predict. So I also know in my own time. When a mid career person came in, it was very disengaging for aspiring. People in the organization who say, wow, that spot, we just traded for a third baseman and all the people in the minors just said, well, that’s five more years. That spot’s not going to be available for me.

So that wasn’t healthy. Rodney, you’ve been on the flip side of this being in the search business. So I don’t know if you have a perspective on how you balance that. And so what’s your take on that?

[00:09:39] Rodney Apple: Yeah, Chris, you’re spot on. And we live in this world in executive search and supply chain. And like you mentioned, the market has been tight.

It’s constantly evolving and companies come to us often. We’re working on a search right now, VP of procurement. It’s the leader starts to fail and doesn’t hit results. We typically are asked to run a confidential search. So that happens. We often all, we, another thing that happens is the company grows and the leadership.

Doesn’t grow with the company in terms of being able to take on additional capacity and responsibilities and then things start to trickle down with the team performance suffers. So we’re absolutely constantly working on searches like that, both due to growth complexity, or we actually made a mistake and hired the wrong leader and backfill that position.

It is a constant, never ending thing that. Keeps our business going.

[00:10:38] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I would offer one more thought for our audience who are in leadership positions. What’s in it for me to be motivated or extra motivated to cultivate that next general generation of leaders. And I would tell you from my own experience being around leaders who, who cultivated a lot of future leaders and I would say I was fortunate that a lot of the people who work for me have gone on to leadership positions.

As those people move either elsewhere in an organization or elsewhere in industry, you basically have lifelong advocates because people will say, you helped me get into this next level position. There’s typically a good pay it forward future benefit when you’ve got to pick up the phone and call people we know who we’ve talked to on our podcast, people like Ali Beard who used to work for me.

And there are many others that time working together and seeing somebody develop is pretty enduring. I think there are just so many reasons why you should, as a leader, be very focused on trying to nurture the aspirations of the folks who aspire to lead. And as we get into this next session, even be careful to see early on who has that potential.

[00:12:01] Mike Ogle: Yeah, I think it’s some really big challenges and being able to understand whether you’re coming in externally or whether you’re being moved into a position internally of having to deal with the rest of the team. At least you’ve known the team. Otherwise, if you’re the one that gets drafted and moves up, that’s 1 thing.

If somebody gets plopped into a position, that’s another thing. I know in my own experience ended up a job. Was as an individual performer and not having somebody directly that was reporting to me and then moved up the ladder as time went by to VP position. But the 2nd position that I ended up taking ended up being 1 where there were several people that were reporting to me and it is a such a different dynamic to experience that.

You can sense the feeling of Hey, where is this going to go? How does this person manage? What does this mean to me for my career advancement? So it’s a great piece to be able to have is that 1st segment. And I think as we dive into the 2nd segment to identify potential leaders overall, I’ll just go ahead and start since I’m already on this, but talk about being able to see the early exhibition of traits in on my academic side.

So you’ve got these young kids that are just getting started and they think they’ve got a certain level of maturity, but they’re just getting started in their career. So when I see them as juniors or seniors or their graduate students, where they show a lot of curiosity, higher level thinking, they ask the right kinds of questions.

But even more, when you see them in action with other students, and when you give them team assignments, you see them as they go through the process of organizing and, and pushing other team members, not just criticizing them, but they remind me of another analogy. I’ll toss in here of almost a herding dog in the field with natural instincts that, and they try to make everyone on the team perform towards the goal.

I think these kinds of things happen in industry too. When people get on teams and being able to notice that they have that kind of instinct, you see the leaders that are emerging. But sometimes I’ve realized myself that I don’t make notes when I see people making these kinds of behaviors clear to me.

I hope that I remember when it comes for making a difference, maybe in grading time or thinking about giving them other opportunities. Is this the kind of thing that has to be instinctual or is it? The, the type of thing that you can teach people to be able to come become great leaders. Now, we’ve got a bias.

We, of course, think that there are ways to be able to get better at this. So regarding that herding dog example, what do you think Chris and Rodney about whether this is, how much is nature and how much is nurture?

[00:14:48] Chris Gaffney: I’ll give you my two cents on it. And I, I reflect on, again, some of the people that I’ve known since.

Early in their career, and I still see them today. I will eventually name a couple people as we go through here, but I think of a particular person. And the reality is that person, first of all, they were intellectually capable, but amongst their peers, all the peers were intellectually capable, had a strong.

Academic background, but as I look at what started to make the difference between. That person being a strong individual contributor and a future leader, the particular person that I’m thinking of, and I know there are other examples that I, I didn’t take the notes, but I spent a lot of time with this person.

They took initiative on their own, beyond their direct accountabilities to help others. And in the example that I think of, this person, we had rotational co ops. In our team, and this was a team that also had a lot of high performers and the 1st line position was an analyst role. And a lot of those analysts got promoted rapidly.

They were all high potential and they moved up quickly and this person recognized that we were constantly going to bring new people into the team and they took it on themselves to 1st of all, codify what it took to onboard somebody effectively. On to the team and then became that person for a number of years 1st, as an individual contributor, and then as they got to be a team leader.

Now, that person today is a very large and large team leader and an influential leader. And I would tell you, I hope I help that person a little bit along the way. But they walked into that with a certain type of motivation that I don’t know, unless it was taught at home by parents or before I came into contact with that person.

So, I think some of it is, and again, I’m probably biasing people, I, again, back to my definition, who I think lead really well, lead the right way, do it the right way, and still get results. I think there has to be some of it in your makeup, where you care more, you are more selfless and think of the greater good.

I think that is where the rubber hits the road.

[00:17:25] Mike Ogle: During this short break, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM talent [email protected].

[00:17:41] Rodney Apple: And it goes back to your question, Mike, or are people innate leaders or natural born leaders, or are they more developed over time? I think it’s a combination to become leaders of leaders. You can, you have to have that drive to continue to get better at it. But I do think there’s some people that are just gifted and they put others before themselves, servant leadership style.

And I think if you’re if you have that in your DNA, you’re probably. The odds are probably higher that you’re going to be a good leader of others. It’s been my experience time and time again, or at least observations. What are some of the other traits that, that we see in people early on? I think we’ve hit a few, but.

Uh, we’ve got some others that, so there’s telltale signs as well, obviously helping others succeed, coaching, mentoring is a big one as we’ve discussed, but what else do you see in these early budding leaders, Chris, Mike?

[00:18:35] Mike Ogle: Yes, when I end up seeing those kinds of characteristics, I, I really like the emphasis that we have these days on being able to have cases that you present to students and have them deal with things in teams and discuss them.

And if you are really conscious about being able to give them some time where they’re in front of you discussing things, and you have a chance to sit in on some conversations, you can pretty quickly pick up on the people who just have it at that point in their life. Sometimes students just aren’t ready yet.

There’s an emotional maturity that hasn’t developed yet. And so when it’s at the student level, I can’t really say that somebody is going to be a great future leader or not. I can see some of these characteristics being demonstrated early on, but you have to be able to see it too. I think you also have to be conscious when you’re a leader.

When these people come out into industry and get involved is be able to make give them opportunities to be a little bit more. Visible to be able to go through that development process. Now, I know that’s getting into our next topic. I’ll try to stay on the topic of how you identify, but being able to see them in action as much as possible and making sure that you have a clear picture in your mind and a way of being able to keep track of that.

Impressions are great. And keeping track of those impressions, but I’m going to go back to that previous point. I think we’re so busy these days. Sometimes we also need tools that help us be able to keep track of these kinds of things is almost a scorecard

[00:20:16] Chris Gaffney: to add to Mike’s list. And again, I did reflect on some people that.

I worked with who I felt like at the time had that potential. They were either going to lead people or led by example and clearly people were willing to follow those folks. But I think of what are the essence of it? A lot of it is you’ve got to be a really good individual contributor, but then I think it’s more than that.

For me, it’s employees who make and keep commitments. That if you give them something to do, it’s going to get done. If they say they’re going to do something, they get it done. You don’t have to follow up with them. They’re self directed within their scope. They’re not sitting there waiting for you to give them something else to do.

They get done what needs to get done, but then they’ve got, they know what else needs to go to, to get done that may be more foundational things that you go to when you’ve got slack time. They’re just doing that because they’re self directed. I do think people who are a good judge of their own capacity, that becomes valuable later on because you have to then be careful about managing the capacity of others and not overload them, but also know how to balance.

So if you can balance your own capacity, you’re likely going to be effective in balancing across multiple. Team members, I think people who were just a positive influence among peers and cross functional team members and they balance it. They’re not viewed as somebody who’s doing it for a selfish reason, but they’re just positive people to be around with and Patrick Plunkett, who I worked with at Koch and who followed me and in the position at leading the NPSG is a great example when Patrick was a team leader.

He was just a hundred percent positive influence amongst his peers. They all trusted and regarded him well on the same thing was true with our cross functional team members that carried on and ultimately clearly was an accelerant for Patrick. I think people who are focused on development for the right reasons and are self aware, and I’ve had a number of people who either worked on my team and were, were mentees over time, who were just relentless about self development, and it was mostly because they just wanted to get better.

They weren’t saying, I’m doing this to get this next job. They were just like, I always know there’s something for me to work on. And Chris Chapman, who worked with us at Koch is a perfect example of that. I mentioned it before, but people who are willing to train others and they’re not asking anything for it.

They’re not saying I can’t do my day job where I’ll do that in exchange for that, as opposed to saying, I’m going to knock my own job out because I can manage my own capacity and I’ve got capacity remaining. For both my development and discretionary work, that makes a difference. And Brittany Dunlap is the person, I gave that other example, and she is a fantastic example who is someone who is, has been just a phenomenal leader and still is in a very senior position at Koch.

And then I think it’s just on top of that is people who take on work that’s for the good of the team. Right? Whenever you’ve got team exercises, you’re working on team building team projects and stuff. There are people who step into that and say, how can I help? And there are people who try to do the bare minimum.

And anyone who’s leaning in on that, I think clearly is someone who has leadership potential. So those are by experiential kind of gauges of people who hit those traits typically end up getting the opportunity to lead and are typically successful in it.

[00:23:49] Rodney Apple: It’s tough, Chris. Yeah, I think just seeking out ways to add value that are beyond the duties on the job description is you’ve summed that up.

It’s a good way to look at it. One thing I wanted to cover is we’ve all worked with employees and even early leaders. Throughout our careers that either weren’t good leaders or wanted to be, and they just couldn’t get there. And I think it’s important to go through the traits that we see that derail those from becoming good leaders.

And I’ve worked directly with folks, even on my team over the years, and they all seem to have common threads. This took me no time to put this list together, just because I’ve unfortunately had to experience it and do, and even do some exits over time. But I think a big one is not being self aware. Of their gaps and their blind spots.

So our job as a leader is to make them aware and to help focus on closing those gaps. So you do that, right? A good leader is going to do that. They’re going to have that tough love feedback, but then they tend to struggle with it. And sometimes they get defensive and they think maybe you’re wrong. So we see that behavior.

Sometimes instead of taking it serious, they may just shrug it off. They think into our earlier point, sometimes you’re like, okay, I need someone in here now. This person’s not taking it serious. They’re not going to develop. So when you do bring in that middle management leader, which I’ve had to do, they look at it as a negative that I’m entitled.

I should have received that promotion just because I’ve been here for X amount of years. So they equate tenure and time and position entitles them to a promotion versus earning it and doing the things to close the gaps, taking the feedback and development serious, if you will, they tend to rarely ask for help.

I’ve noticed they think asking for help is a sign of weakness or if you’re giving them something in terms of advice that you must be doing something. They must be doing something wrong. So it’s a negative way to think and it is It’s going to derail their careers. Sometimes they look at their peers as their main competition and that can lead to things like not celebrating or recognizing their success or sometimes even taking credit for the work others are doing on the team.

Also have noticed not very coachable. They can struggle with taking. Advice or here’s your individual development plan this quarter. I’d like you to do X, Y, Z. And then you notice when you meet with your one on ones, they haven’t started it. They’re not taking it serious. And they think leadership is really just about managing people, delegating tasks, tracking KPIs.

And some of the behaviors also are just not being humble, not being selfless. Efforts tend to focus on what is going to benefit me. Versus benefiting others or the collective team and bottom line. If you observe these types of behaviors, you’re going to have to try harder. And but at some point, what else can you do?

If it’s starting to create a toxic impact on the culture, you may have to make a mistake. The biggest mistake, though, is promoting someone too soon that hasn’t closed these gaps that we’re talking about, hoping they’ll eventually become good leaders. Let’s put them in a stretch assignment. Let’s get their toes in the water.

That actually can have a serious impact where you may lose your very best people as a result, and that can just compound the entire issue. And then last point on this is if they don’t commit and act on making. Uh, positive changes, they’re eventually going to quit your or you’re going to ask them to leave and I see that they oftentimes go to another employer and they’re thinking what the company is the problem I’m going to switch employers and that’s going to solve everything.

And then they quickly find out that’s not the case, then they start hopping around. So that’s been my observation, just pointing out some of the more negative things that employers and executives and HR folks should be looking at because the last thing you want to do is promote someone too quickly.

That’s not ready.

[00:27:53] Chris Gaffney: What’s interesting, as you listen to that, as I listen to that list, I go back, Mike, to your sports analogy, and if you’re a fan of any major team sport, a lot of the things, Rodney, that you talked about are typical with people who, in some respects, may be really talented. But they are I people in a we world, right?

In most cases, teams, teams require collaboration. You can’t have a hero, make the team work. And so I think what’s true in, in industry, it’s true in sports as well. So I like that list, Rodney. And I do know that that’s our experience. And it’s interesting cause you pull, I think some stats. And I think there are a couple of things that we didn’t cover on either side, Become part of this, but we didn’t say explicitly, but because we didn’t say excellent communication skills.

I do think that is something that ultimately becomes important from a leadership standpoint. I think it may be implicit in a lot of what we said, but I think it’s worth calling out. Uh, to the audience, but I, and I think the other one for us that we didn’t, we set it in pieces, but it’s the resiliency piece, right?

You got that in that they can take feedback and they understand it’s something to learn from, but also resiliency gets to, and you see a little bit of when you challenge an individual contributor, but a team leader has to handle pressure because their team sees it and they represent a larger chunk of resources for an organization.

And they also have to adjust as opposed to saying, what, we’re switching strategy again, they say, all right, things have changed. Let’s get to work. Let’s figure out it. I think if I had to add a few other small pieces to the list that we’ve laid out, I think those are worth calling out.

[00:29:58] Rodney Apple: Yeah, I agree, Chris.

I think I think showing empathy towards others is another one that we didn’t cover that it’s this person’s going through a tough time and it’s just that reaching out, patting them on the back. Hey, we’re we’re We care about you. We’re here to support you. It just goes a long way in terms of demonstrating those leadership skills, being curious, asking questions.

How can I help? We could go on this topic, but I think these are the core things that demonstrate those telltale signs that someone is on their way and it should be focused on in terms of development, proactive development to move them on up the ladder, so to speak.

[00:30:35] Mike Ogle: Yep. Chris, are there some specific kinds of methods or programs?

How should we approach the development of leaders?

[00:30:43] Chris Gaffney: I think we have to acknowledge that our audience works in both big and small companies, and I’ve worked in big and small. So, I think it’s a little bit different in companies where they have structured formal. Training programs, a lot of H. R. talent development infrastructure versus a small company, but it can work in both.

I think in the formal kind of typical large company kind of infrastructure, if you can get access to a structured training program for aspiring leaders. Then that’s the gold standard. I think the reality, even in a lot of the large companies, if somebody is not in a leadership role today, it’s a bit of a paradox because they’re not necessarily eligible for that training.

So it ends up being the manager of that organization. Budding leader. It’s their obligation to create a development plan that person can work on to get them ready to take on that 1st position. So it goes back to 1 of our earlier episodes where we talk about how well do people learn and we still believe in that model where it’s 70 2010.

It’s 70% On the job, it’s 20 percent mentoring and coaching, which I’ll come back to, and it’s just a tiny bit of structured training. I think it’s the, it does come back to the manager who says, now I spot this in this person. And as I’ve talked to them, they’ve either expressed the desire and aspiration to get to be able to lead people or I’ve called it out and say, I think you’ve got the juice and they say, okay.

How can I get ready? Then you craft, you craft a plan that gives them the opportunity to exercise within a role. And there are some organizations where the first line manager is either managing hourly associates or a very small team. Then you want to get them to a training class where they just understand the basics of managing individuals.

But for me, that informal work starts with. Do we have interns? Let this person be the person to guide them. You know, interns, co ops. If we have new team members, peer mentor, right? For someone coming on. If there are projects within the team that require some leadership, then you’ve got, uh, An opportunity right away for them to provide a little guidance to other members of the team without being a named organizational leader.

And then I always felt like getting these aspirational people on a cross functional team where they could play well with others. I think, uh. I think is super, super helpful. Um, I mentioned the 70 2010. I think mentoring and coaching is huge. And I think the coaching role is the manager’s role. But I think as soon as there are people who see that, I always thought it was helpful for them.

Encouraging them and enabling them to get a mentor elsewhere in the organization and externally if they could. I’m a big, we’ve talked about this before, I’m a fan of informal mentoring. If you match it, those can be much more durable. But then that person’s starting to hear things from multiple voices, and either good diversity of perspective that they’re hearing, and or validation that, hey, you’re telling me the same thing that my manager tells me.

She’s like, yes. I need to take it to heart. I think that’s important, but then you get in ongoing performance management kind of dialogue, which can occur in a big organization or a small, and that person’s getting that feedback, building up their foundation so that they’re really going to be ready when the opportunity comes.

We mentioned rotational programs. Those are exceptional, but if you’re an organization that has those. Get your people into them, but that’s less common than not. And then I think the other thing that’s important as a manager in accessing support for budding leaders is in many cases, the leader needs to take the initiative and say to someone, I think you have the potential let’s work on this as a development objective.

And I think a big. Opportunity or an obligation for leaders. There is make sure you’re encouraging the women and minorities on your team. In some cases, they may not be as assertive as others, but if you make sure you see that potential and you nurture that, then you’re really supporting again. Someone who might be a diamond in the rough to have that opportunity.

[00:35:22] Mike Ogle: Yeah. And I think one other thing that I wanted to toss in there and our supply chain careers podcast, uh, where we’ve talked with individual people about their career progression, how they get started, what were some of the influential things that happened to them along the way that got them into their way through leadership.

And sometimes they’ve started out being order pickers or driving trucks or whatever it may be. And somebody ends up. seeing that they ended up asking those kinds of questions. The things that we put in the previous segment, somebody who notices those characteristics, and it could be a first line supervisor who did something like that themselves.

And they say, you know what, this person really cares. They work hard, they ask the right questions, they help others out, and they give them that opportunity to be able to move up. So I think that’s another thing that we need to make. As a point on this particular episode is just telling people, make sure you don’t start with just the people.

They’re coming out of college, for instance, and diving into they’ve got a supply chain degree and diving into a role. There’s so many people that come into this business that once they learn the pieces of it. And they may not have had the other opportunities, but they’ve got the characteristics. Look for the characteristics.

Encourage first line supervisors to look for those characteristics and maybe get them into a development program.

[00:36:48] Rodney Apple: I think that is a wonderful idea. We need to see more of that, especially in the larger companies that have lots of operations, whether it’s factories or distribution centers, time and time again, people that they may not have that degree, but they sure are leading.

They’re doing a great job of, they’re hitting all their KPIs. They’re their hourly team of 30 or 40 or 50 look up to them. And then they, oftentimes though, we’re going to bring in somebody for a degree to take that. Operations leader or second in command type role. I think that’s a great point. I think that’s can be a tremendous feeder pool and also break down the rub that you often see in the bigger companies between all you’re at headquarters versus all you’re out in the field.

Rotating people in and out is a great way to create a good bond between operations and headquarters while identifying those folks that are budding and that are ready to move up in the organization. So I think that’s a great call out, Mike. Thanks.

[00:37:42] Mike Ogle: And Chris, something I wanted to ask you about as well is what kind of effort do you end up making or should make when you start to notice these characteristics about somebody?

How do you start to treat them differently in a way that you interact with them? The things that you also invite them to and getting them in front of other leaders, for instance. What have you seen that works best that way?

[00:38:05] Chris Gaffney: I think the best thing, Mike, Mike. Is do it in a structured development conversation and to me, that’s equitable because those conversations are occurring with all the team members.

I think philosophically, everyone has the opportunity for development and part of that is checking their interests and aspirations. And part of the manager’s accountability is calibrating that right in some cases, people’s aspirations and capability are out of whack. And you’ve got to have the honest conversations to bring them back into balance and say eventually.

But now we’ve got to work on foundational things first. Let’s get those done. And then we can talk about that in the future. But some people also underplay it, right? They’re like, they’re not talking about it. And you may say, I don’t know if you realize it, but a lot of things you’re doing would suggest that you might be effective.

And then it’s a matter of some cases bringing that up to people and having them say, I am interested. What do we need to work on? So to me, I think that’s the foundation. And you could do that in a big company or a small company.

[00:39:12] Mike Ogle: And I think that helps us lead us into our fourth segment, where, you know, once you’ve identified people, you’re putting them into some kind of program to develop them, then what are some of the best practices for measuring the impact of that leadership development at your company?

[00:39:30] Rodney Apple: Yeah, I think as you look at how do we measure and track the success of our programs and the leaders that we’re trying to cultivate. I think you look at the results and the KPIs is one, of course, how are they progressing? We want them and we’re clearly communicating expectations for how they should track within the organization.

This especially applies to larger companies. Are they making that right momentum? Are they having a positive impact on their associates, HR and talent management folks getting heavily involved in this area? A big one for me, and we did this recently at the company in a small company, you’re so close to the associates first name basis that if you’ve cultivated an environment that’s healthy with feedback and encouraging, even when it’s negative, and it’s the tough love kind of conversations, you’re going to have that just.

Immediate pulse on on the business. So it’s it is different as we compare larger companies to smaller companies, but surveys in a small company where you wear hats like I do. We don’t have an HR person. I’m that de facto folks may not feel comfortable coming to the head person in charge, the owner, and they they may.

Sometimes hide their feelings or their thoughts, and that’s not healthy. So you, you sometimes as a leader, you have to create that, um, mechanism that solicits feedback and sometimes you have to do it in an anonymous fashion. So we did that and it was an anonymous leadership survey. I worked with a few people on the team to create it.

We rolled it out is geared towards me and one of our other leaders. And it’s. It’s, it helped me as a leader. So I think putting those survey loops that you’ve, I’ve certainly been through the 360 program back at Home Depot. We did that as a company and you’re cutting across your teams, those that are your peers, those above you.

So it’s, it goes 360 and that’s a great way to, to get those inputs that can help move the needle forward, but also let you know how you’re perceived in the organization at, as a leader. Those are some of the main ones that, that I’ve seen and have put into practice.

[00:41:32] Mike Ogle: It’s interesting when you mentioned the 360, I remember when I was at my position at MHI for about 15 years and at that company, the introduction that we were going to be doing, the 360 was one of the most For the 1st time at the organization was 1 of the most angst filled across the organization and conversations of the water cooler conversations between people.

And I think the way that those are brought about and the way that they’re introduced, uh, it could have really negated a lot of that angst. It really could have. Made it clear that of what we’re really trying to achieve. Now, eventually it got there, but not without a lot of early sort of wasted angst by too many people in the organization.

[00:42:25] Rodney Apple: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think that is the feedback you hear if it’s not communicated properly. Here’s what we’re trying to get out of this. It’s all really to help you and to help everyone be a better leader or better or whatever they’re trying to go for in terms of results. It can create that that ain’t as you mentioned, Mike.

What about you, Chris? What do you see?

[00:42:43] Chris Gaffney: I would add a couple points. If you’ve done all the things that we’ve talked to through the course of this podcast, you as a manager, then hopefully have seen the result of that. That this person continues to respond. They’ve done about everything they can do as an individual contributor.

In most cases, if that’s the situation, you’re an advocate for them. But when you’re talking about That person having the opportunity to lead the opportunity may or may not be in your organization. And even if it is in your organization, there may be people above you, either your boss in or someone in HR who say, how do we know this person is ready?

And so there’s typically some other calibration that’s required. I, as a manager, if I had somebody who I’d spotted, we aligned with them in development, we worked on it. I would be telegraphing that to people who would be in a position to support someone actually interviewing for a leadership position.

So I’d be working preemptively on that to make sure that those people had exposure to this person and they could see them in action and become advocates. And if they had anything that they felt was limiting in their observation of the person, then we had the opportunity to take it on in the development plan.

So, you’d really want to work hard to get all that feedback. So, that person really was bulletproof when they finally had the opportunity to interview. The only other thing that I would do is, in some cases, I would have those people go have informal discussion with the potential future hiring manager. If there were two or three other jobs where that person could take on that first line leadership position, I’d go have them talk to the manager even when the job wasn’t open.

And I’d say, if a year from now, this job came out, let me tell you who I am, what I’ve been doing, what am I missing anything that would hold me back from being a candidate to at least be on the slate when this job came up. And if you, so it’s a bit of a proactive process, and all you’re trying to do in all these things is to either have someone say, no, you’re a rock star.

When the time comes, you’ll have a shot, or I still think you got to work on X and demonstrate Y, and then you’ve got the time to do it. I never wanted to have somebody. The job comes open. We had him in the middle for a year, and then we hear something. We said, gosh, if we knew that a year ago, we could have closed that gap.

I always want people to have the time. So that’s those are my nuggets in that one.

[00:45:16] Mike Ogle: Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic point of being able to think ahead and even initially just looking at your own aspirations and where you think you might be headed and make that as clear as you can start some of those early conversations.

Very helpful.

[00:45:34] Chris Gaffney: If you are a leader of others, you have a wonderful opportunity and an obligation to find that next generation of leaders within your organization. I think that’s number 1. I think the 2nd thing is, there are a lot of tried and true indicators that someone has The makeup to be a potential leader.

And so knowing that will give you the opportunity to find those people, calibrate their interest. Uh, and then I think there are many ways, even when someone is an individual contributor to help them continue to build the muscles that will make them a successful leader. And they are in your control as a leader.

If you have opportunities in a big organization to tap them into training, that’s great, but that’s not going to hold you back. And then my belief is showcase those people once they get to the point where they demonstrate to you that they’re on the way Make sure they have Exposure interaction and visibility with those who can influence their future.


[00:46:40] Rodney Apple: you, Chris. This has been another great episode of our supply chain leadership series. So we appreciate all of the nuggets of wisdom and perspectives for our listeners. If you find this content interesting and useful pop over to SEM talent group. Resources and insights tab, you can find a plethora of related content on supply chain career development and if of others that could benefit, please do us a favor and share and, and that helps to improve our ratings and continue to provide these lessons in supply chain career development.

So thanks for listening, everyone. And we’ll see you on the next episode.

[00:47:18] Mike Ogle: This podcast is made possible by SCM talent group. The industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM Talent Group at scmtalent. com


Who is Chris Gaffney?

  • Managing Director Supply Chain and Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech
  • Co-Founder, Edge Supply Chain, providing Supply Chain Services to the CPG Industry
  • 25 Years w/ Coca-Cola holding Supply Chain leadership roles:
    • VP of Global Strategic Supply Chain
    • President of Global Supply
    • SVP of Product Supply Systems
    • VP of Logistics for North America

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