Who wants to be President?
Career goal setting and development.
Do you have a specific career vision of being the President of a company someday? Are you working on adding professional skill sets that will enable you to take on a C-Level role? Do you have a career dream? As a company, have you invested in a definitive training and development program to foster your next generation of company leaders?
The horticultural industry is just one of many that need more leaders now and progressively into the future. The number of retirements coming up is staggering. Did you know that there are over 100 owners of companies retiring soon who have no clear leader to succeed them? That is just in horticulture. Overall, 60% of the professionals in the agriculture industry are over 55. As an industry, we endured a period with historically low numbers of students and professionals interested in pursuing a green industry career. This period has created an employee talent gap in what would often be considered the next traditional leadership group. This group is talented and knowledgeable, but it is merely a matter of supply and demand. There are just not enough leaders to take over, and not enough have been provided the necessary leadership training.
Throughout every sector, demographic, and role in the green industry and many other industries, there are too few individuals who have had a specific desire and career focus to run a company. Compare this to the financial or IT sectors where a high volume of professionals have an early passion and focus on driving their careers to their industry’s top leadership roles. It is surprising how few professionals have had an initial desire to be a President of a company. A dynamic affecting this is the sheer number of family-held companies where leadership has traditionally been passed to 2nd or 3rd generations. While this is admirable, it has also tempered the career aspirations of those who are not part of the family. We are now at a tipping point where there are fewer generations to pass leadership roles to, causing new and challenging exit planning options for the current leaders.
How do we address this? From the mutual effort of individuals and companies.
Encourage students and early career professionals to dream and envision being a company leader. Leadership is not for the faint of heart with all its responsibilities and challenges. However, we need more professionals to dream about wanting to run a company. Ask yourself if you have allowed yourself to dream about this type of role? To have more leaders, we need more professionals desiring to take on this level of leadership.
With that desire comes the awareness that a person needs to embrace continual learning with curiosity and accept certain sacrifices driving their career to achieve top leadership positions. This could include putting in longer hours some days, the ability to relocate as necessary, and volunteering to take on new tasks or help in other departments when they are shorthanded.
Academically, technical knowledge is essential. Many excellent educational institutions produce technically knowledgeable students. However, many lack focused programs on developing company leadership with curriculums geared to business and management. We rightly celebrate our grower interns, but we should also celebrate those doing horticulture industry internships in sales, marketing, accounting, or human resources.
Have a professional growth plan. If you do want to take the helm of a company someday, identify in yourself the knowledge and industry skillsets you need to master, so you are ready. Proactively take charge of gaining the knowledge and experience you lack rather than relying on others.
There is as much onus on companies to be a part of increased leadership development. Yes, this does require an investment. Begin to balance your team’s professional development with your automation budget. No matter how automated, it still takes strong professionals for a company to realize success.
Many assessment tools are available that will help a company identify individuals with leadership behaviors. These tools identify a career plan for those individuals that will infuse them with the skillsets needed to become a strong leader in the future.
Does your company have ongoing career development planning, which includes rotation through different departments or functions? At the very least, does the company invest in continual education or training programs focused on improving communication, soft skills, sales, marketing, financial, operations, or supply chain knowledge?
Encourage and support your company’s professionals to become active within your industry via associations, seminars, or other educational and networking events. Don’t be afraid of losing this talent by this exposure.
Professionals who know their company is investing fully in their growth are much less likely to leave. Employees who feel stifled in their development will leap at the chance for growth elsewhere.
No company has an endless budget, but a company can apply strategies that do not require a monetary investment – transparency in your business and delegation of responsibilities. Openness with your employees about all facets of the business directly correlates to increasing their professional growth. For example, companies applying the Great Game of Business approach to transparency have more engaged and motivated employees concerning their career progression. Pairing high potential employees with positive mentors will also benefit the mentor themselves increasing organizational talent strength. Encourage delegating responsibilities and not micro-managing those assigned these tasks. This must start from the highest leadership levels. Current leaders – ask yourself if too many business decisions are run through you, or have you honestly delegated to your team decisions without hovering over them? FYI – your business’s valuation increases when delegating decision making abilities and becoming less owner-centric.
Growing the number of leaders is critical to the future success of any industry. The gap can be closed with more professionals who desire to run a company and put their plan in place. Couple this with companies providing increased focus on training and development, and we have set the stage for increased industry success that becomes sustainable for many years to come.
Todd Downing is a Managing Partner for Best Human Capital Advisory Group and leads the Horticulture & Green Industry executive search and advisory services. He has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and a passion for supporting its continued professional growth.
Click here for our Special Section on Coronavirus Business & Leadership Response Resources, which is updated daily with the latest news, and how you, as a business leader, can best respond.