Recently, when discussing the details of succession planning (uh, oh, here he goes again...!) I was asked the following by a colleague:
“What general competencies, skills, attributes or potentials should we be seeking in someone worthy of developmental efforts, and how do we determine them in candidates? Are those things different for potential departmental/functional heads versus those being considered for C-level responsibilities?”
My shorter version of that same question: "Who the hell do I develop?"
First, I believe skills & attributes (or competencies, if you prefer) are relatively unique to the positions involved. Having said that, my same triad for hiring easily applies to significant development.
A developmental candidate must bring to the table:
1. Moral and ethical foundations. By now, the person's character and belief/value system is pretty much locked in by past interactions with family, friends, colleagues, and school. They need to bring ethics appropriate for your position with them...
Look for evidence of successful, difficult decision-making, and drill into the thinking that took place. Uncover judgment errors and do the same drilling.
2. Work ethic. This is ingrained in people by the age of 4. Someone either has it or not. Bring it with you or move along. Examine evidence of "finishing what you start." Often times, well-intentioned people with a mediocre work ethic will promise the moon, and even begin subsequent implementation.
Many 'starts,' however, will die on the vine. Also investigate resourcefulness that shows a "can-do" sort of accomplishment attitude.
3. Intellect. Remember, you can't fix 'stupid.' You just can't. Many have tried in vain before you; learn that lesson quickly and judge accordingly. They must bring with them sufficient intelligence to perform future responsibilities without excess, preventable error. I don’t mean an IQ test, necessarily, but they must have the mental snap to learn what we need done.
Intellect possessed must match that required by the role. Repeated mistakes or errors in judgment, inability to grasp simple decision-making analyses, lack of confidence in personal actions and decisions frequently point to issues with intelligence.
So, spend some time and effort deciding who you really want to develop; a one-size-fits-all approach simply won't work, and will tire everyone out unnecessarily. Not every "Manager" has the wherewithal to be developed into a Director or VP, and certainly not every VP has the potential to become C-anything.
Cardinal rule of decision-making: Think, reduce, decide.
Don't make this any harder than it needs to be.
But that's just me...