Strengthening the bench

I am truly inspired by those Chicago Blackhawks. One of the inspiring things about the Hawks is their bench strength. So far, the second, third and fourth lines have been carrying the day, outperforming expectations. Given that a team has a good chance of winning the whole thing, the bench has clearly done its job!

For early stage companies it is often a challenge of having just enough players on the ice to cover each position – let alone having enough talent on the bench to substitute in. For established companies, the problem is one of building from the pool of talent that you already have and boosting your strength from within.

The annual performance review process provides an excellent opportunity for the supervisor to sit down with their employees and have a “development conversation. This discussion should follow the review of the past performance and capitalize on the things that worked well and things that needed some improvement.

I am of course a big fan of starting with the end goal in mind – specifically: “What are my career goals and aspirations? Where would I envision myself working and at what level, five years from now? Are my goals realistic and possible within this time frame?”

Once the end-game is established, assess strengths and weaknesses. A great exercise is to have both the supervisor and the employee work independently on these lists and compare notes in a joint session. Many employees find that they are tougher on themselves when they do the self-assessment. Tools such as 360-degree evaluation provide a very comprehensive approach to capture all of the components from several stakeholders.

Often to get to the next level you need to identify additional leadership competencies or technical skills to achieve the desired results. The creation of a personal development plan is the next step in the process. The supervisor and employee will need to work on this program together addressing the individual and departmental needs, time and budget. Components of the plan could include formal training programs, on-the-job cross training, participation in special assignments, coaching services, volunteer work and webinars on industry topics.

I think that we will look back on the Stanley Cup finals and do a complete analysis of the outcome. In this review, I know that we will find that bench strength made all the difference.

Are you doing all you can to win your Cup?