What's Keeping CEO's Awake?

12/19/2012 12:41 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2013

My colleague Bonnie Hagemann and I conducted a major executive trends research study late last year called the Trends in Executive Development Research Study, which was published by Pearson. We surveyed and interviewed CEO's and HR executives representing over 100 global organizations. While we were able to identify a number of fascinating trends in how organizations go about their talent management and executive development processess, the three major findings that really jumped out were:

  • Bench Strength Issues. The need to develop corporate executives and identify and develop high-potential and emerging leaders has reached an all-time high. This issue is and will continue tobe a major factor in contributing to "sleeplessness" in the C-Suite (more on this below).
  • 70-20-10. 70 percent of an executive's development is based on what they learn on-the-job and structured developmental experiences; 20 percent is based on what they learn from others, including mentors and coaching; and 10 percent is based on targeted training and educational experiences. What is clear from our research, is that this concept is now widely accepted and practiced across multiple industries and geographies.
  • Critical Thinking. For the first time in the many years we have conducted this research, organizations cited the primary development need for incumbent and emerging executives as being critical thinking (more on this in a later blog).

The need to identify and develop leaders and future leaders was clearly identified by respondents as the most influential condition and the top objective in executive development. CEO's and HR leaders placed a heavy emphasis on the need for clear succession plans with adequate depth and development of bench in order to ensure the strength of the succession plan. As Warren Buffett once said, "Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing." No organization wants to run the risk of having leaders who don't know what they are doing and with this year's research we see some fear that this is exactly what is going on. As I have written about elsewhere, it is vital that organizations take steps to mitigate their risk now and in the future and it is clear that one powerful way of doing this is by accelerating the development of their high-potential and emerging leaders.