Top Tenets for Executive Development – Part Two: Make an Individual Impact

As I shared in the first part of this blog series, HR4D created our top ten tenets for how to make executive development more impactful. Unlike most content out there about executive development, these tenets are not focused on training best practices.  Instead, these tenets are focused on the more important aspect of how executive development is identified, supported, encouraged and implemented.  These tenets align with our leadership philosophy – as a leader how you get things done becomes increasingly more important than what you get done.  If you missed the first part of this series, check it out here!  Today, we’ll be covering the next three tenets that build on top of the organizational foundation – how to make an impact at the individual level:

  1. Provide direct, measurable and actionable feedback
  2. Focus on emotional intelligence skills
  3. Recognize their humanity

Provide direct, measurable and actionable feedback

Sometimes, identifying the best places to develop can be a challenge.  Most of us know, we have opportunities to keep getting better and that we are all a continual work in progress.  So, what is the best way to identify the most impactful things to work on? Using tools and processes that provide direct, measurable and actionable feedback!  Our recommendation is to use an assessment tool.  But, you have to be careful about which assessment tool you pick for development purposes.  There are lots of assessments out there – but, many of the common assessments only include a self-assessment component. Self-assessments can be fun and informative, particularly for team dynamics.  But, from a development perspective, the issue with relying on self-assessments is that it relies on the person taking the assessment to be self-aware.  Unfortunately, the reality is only 10-15% of the population is truly self-aware.  

Give feedback

HR4D recommends using 360-degree assessments, which provide the ability to give anonymous feedback and quantify the results.  

Getting beyond the executive’s self-assessment can be powerful. For development identification, 360’s help with two key things: help increase the executives self-awareness (or point out the lack of awareness) and provide specific feedback on areas to focus.  If you have ever done a 360-degree assessment, you know it can provide some powerful insights!

Focus on emotional intelligence skills

Emotional intelligence, as defined by Daniel Goleman – a pioneer on emotional intelligence who wrote the best-seller Emotional Intelligence in 1995 – is awareness of self, management of self, awareness of others and management of the relationship with others.  Or in simple terms, the awareness and management of self and others.  Emotional intelligence skills are proven to be critical for good leadership.  Most likely your organization is using a competency model that includes leadership competencies and maybe organizational competencies.  But, HR4D recommends you go beyond competencies and skills.  It is likely many of your executives have gotten to where they are because they have great technical skills and competencies.  They may not have refined or focused as much on their emotional intelligence skills.  Things like: impulse control; empathy, emotional expression, interpersonal relationships, flexibility, stress tolerance and many other components.  Organizations sometimes don’t focus on these because it is difficult to measure, teach, and hold people accountable to these skills. We all recognize how important these types of skills are but putting expectations around them and developing these skills in executives is challenging.  Even though it is hard, HR4D recommends focusing on these emotional intelligence skills because they are a key differentiator in strong leaders. 

Recognize their humanity

Have you, or people you work with, ever felt that the executives in your organization are intimidating?  Executives can seem to have a “larger than life” presence about them.  The truth is – they are humans, like the rest of us.  

Change your view

Although people tend to see executives as very confident, they have insecurities, fears and aren’t as assured as it seems from the outside.  

On top of that, they may even feel lonely.  If you think about it, who do they talk to if they have concerns or feel less confident on something?  They may feel nervous to talk to their boss since that person controls their performance review and compensation; they may not feel they can talk to their peers, particularly if it is a competitive environment; and you definitely hope they are not talking to their staff about concerns. Once you recognize their humanity, you are likely to see some of your conversations with them through a different lens and be able to better partner with them on their development.  The ability to recognize their humanity does two things: 1) greater empathy is introduced, allowing for a more effective partnership and real dialogue on what they need to develop; and 2) it gives them the permission to use the development to have a breakthrough and experience growth.  As an executive coach, I can tell you that almost every executive I have worked with feels this at one time or another.  If they have a confidential relationship, like a coach, they are grateful, can work on significant issues, and are able to make the breakthrough and behavior change.

After you have set the organizational foundation, to increase the effectiveness of your executive development, focus on making an individual impact!  Next time our focus will be the tenets that can help you make the development stick!  Let me know what you think and if you have used any of these tenets in your organization! Send me an email or hit me on LinkedIn with your reactions.


Jennifer is a seasoned leader and executive coach with over 20 years experience including as a Chief Human Resources Officer overseeing the HR and Communications functions. She is an Associate Certified Coach through ICF.

HR4D’s mission is to ensure our client organizations fulfill their visions, by adopting their goals as ours, creating solutions that are right for them, and making the people who hire us professionally successful.  Contact us to learn more!