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Client Story

Financial Services Organization Fills the Bench at the Highest Levels

Identifying Who Can Lead Next—And Getting Them Ready Fast

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The Need

Fill emerging gaps within the senior levels of leadership.

The Solution

Assessment process to identify those with potential for C-level leadership. Accelerated development program, including executive coaching, feedback, and developmental assignments.

The Result

Exceptionally strong succession success and bench strength for the C-level.

Identifying Who Can Lead Next—And Getting Them Ready Fast

Who will lead, and how will we prepare them to be successful? This was the chief concern of one top financial services firm’s C-level leadership team.

After years of steady, positive performance, a financial services firm faced the sudden exodus of a wave of senior-level leaders, whose retirements left the company unsure if their successors—whether from inside or outside the organization—could sustain the performance to which they had grown accustomed. While senior management felt there was significant strength at mid- and lower levels of management, they were concerned about a dramatically shifting business landscape, and the emerging gaps within the senior levels of leadership.

The firm set out to initially look internally for these successors, partnering with DDI to first design an assessment process to quickly and accurately identify the leaders with the most potential for C-level leadership. With a cadre of players selected, the goal then became accelerated development and growth for these individuals, which included a series of growth activities—such as immersive executive simulations, decision dilemmas, mock strategic business planning, new role assignments, executive coaching, and high-speed development plans—that would rapidly ready them for more complex senior-level roles.

Making Acceleration Happen

While analyzing how leaders have performed in the past is critical, it can still leave many unanswered questions about how they will perform in the future, particularly as business conditions are shifting. With DDI’s accelerated growth strategy as its guiding force, the financial firm immersed its high-potential leadership candidates in a challenging environment that provided the insight and foresight to fully address future readiness at both the individual and group levels. The accelerated development program also included a collaborative executive coaching element in which DDI experts, working in conjunction with coaches from within the organization, provided the candidates with real-time feedback to help them address major challenges in their roles and the business at every step of development.

After the initial wave of leaders made their way through the development program, the organization’s senior management team evaluated the early development outcomes. They were astounded with what they found—particularly from the simulation results. “I’ll admit it. I didn’t expect this much development this quickly,” said one senior executive. The senior leadership team noticed, with some surprise, that this group of high-potential leaders responded very well to the complex strategic challenges they addressed in the accelerated growth process.

While the firm initially worried that it was lacking people with strategic insight, the process uncovered more possibility, illuminating the nuanced skills of leaders who had bright, strategic minds—these people just hadn’t yet had the chance to use these skills. The firm then started to give these high-potentials assignments it normally wouldn’t have given them, as well as coaching and development it wouldn’t have otherwise considered for these individuals. The simulation process was eye-opening and showed senior leadership new, faster ways to successfully accelerate growth at the top.

Seeing Succession Success

After two years, a few dozen senior-level leaders had completed the program. The organization realized a surprising level of growth from not only the initial wave of participants, but in subsequent waves since then, which led the organization to call off nearly all external searches. The talent needed was already there!

As a result of its accelerated development strategy, the firm began to see exceptionally strong succession success at the senior levels. These early results revealed that the senior leadership team’s initial assumption—that the organization had no leadership strength at the top, but much strength at the middle and bottom parts of the organization—was the opposite of what was true. They came to discover that their growth needs were actually in these mid and lower levels of leadership and aimed their external selection processes at these lower levels of leadership instead. They also expanded the accelerated development process that had worked so well at the top to their mid-level and frontline leaders, and results of the expanded program have been extremely positive as well.

In addition, the firm’s senior leadership team has adopted the process as a standard, ongoing effort because of its tremendous impact on the organization’s ability to make accurate talent decisions. The process has taught them how to tap into the potential of the organization’s leadership and prepare them for success at all levels.

In partnership with DDI to prepare its leaders for succession, this organization was able to:

  • Use assessment data to accurately identify the leaders with the most potential for C-level leadership.
  • Create an accelerated development strategy that rapidly readied its leaders for more complex senior-level roles.
  • Achieve exceptionally strong succession success at senior levels of leadership.