How to Present Your Leadership Development Plan To An Executive Panel Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in a boardroom while six high potential leaders presented their leadership development plans to a panel of executives. The executives made up the succession management committee and the “high potential leaders” were individuals that the executive team thought were the most likely contenders for internal promotions if a job became available. These “high potentials” were asked to present their leadership development plans, so that they could get input from the executives on whether they were focusing in the right areas. It was also an opportunity to obtain resources for training and coaching and to get some practice presenting to executives. Some of the presenters did a great job and others were lack lustre. In case you ever have to do this, here are some tips on what to do and what not to do based on what I witnessed.
Tip One: Prepare
If you have to present your leadership development plan to a succession panel, I would highly recommend that you prepare in the same way that you would prepare for a panel interview. Think about what you are going to say, how you are going to say it, and the kinds of comments or questions that may come up. Doing this will help you be calm and composed - a key ingredient if you are trying to exude “executive presence.”
Tip Two: Be Mindful Of Your Introduction
The best introduction I witnessed was a leader that said: "I want to start by telling you that I am happy to be here today. I am genuinely interested in being an executive in this company and I consider it a great opportunity to be sharing my career goals and development goals with each of you." Wow. He was the only person who said this and it definitely captured people's attention. Talk about setting yourself up for success!
Tip Three: Showcase Your Strengths First
Although the topic of “leadership development plans” is usually focused on what you want to improve, make sure you talk about what you are already good at. One woman said: "Although I have a number of leadership strengths such as my ability to develop business strategy, and create a high performing team, I also recognize that there are some areas I need to further refine to prepare myself for an executive role." When she said this, I thought: "Smart move, lady." She used the opportunity to remind everyone of the strengths she is currently bringing to the business.
Tip Four: Link to Business Outcomes
When the time comes to talk about your development goals, I recommend linking your plans directly to the company strategy and your day to day business outcomes. For example, one leader said: "Given the amount of change in the business right now, my department needs to become more visible across different functional groups and we need to build our reputation with senior leaders. Given that this is part of my team mandate it is a perfect opportunity for me to build my own skills in relationship development and strategic influence. I want to learn what I can on this topic and apply the best practices in my day to day work.” Everyone around the table got it. Compare this to another fellow who stood up and talked about all the things he is not good at and how he has challenges with morale on his team. When this second fellow was presenting I questioned why he was selected for the program in the first place and I am sure some of the executives were wondering the same thing.
Tip Five: Pick a Presentation Style and Stick To It
When presenting some people read off the page and other people used a more narrative approach. Either method worked as long as you stuck with it. The people who ended up confusing the panel were those who could not decide if they were reading off the page or telling a story. In these cases, the panel kept flipping through the pages wondering if they were tracking the presentation correctly. Just pick one method and commit!
I hope these tips are useful to you. Remember, these presentations are an opportunity for you to showcase your career goals to decision makers in the business. Maximize it, so you can reach your own career aspirations and make some great connections along the way.