Are you among the managers and executives experiencing frustration when trying to fill your leadership vacancies?

Don’t fret.  I’ve been there, and there’s a solution.

The 5 Warning Signs

Here are five warning signs that your leadership pipeline needs a fix:

#1 – You Can’t Find Qualified Candidates to Interview

As you prepare for the interview, you start with the perfect list of minimum qualifications for your ideal candidates. They have excellent communication skills, amazing leadership qualities, and the technical know-how to operate in your unique environment.

However, your team conducts a quick screening of the resumes and comes up empty-handed. Not one candidate has everything you need. So you get a little lenient and drop a couple of items from your list.

The next thing you know you’re scouring applicant information in hopes of finding at least two or three candidates you can interview.

#2 Your Interviews Are Yielding Awful Results

You conduct several rounds of interviews, each time getting a little less picky about the “must haves” for the job. You’re conflicted. Deep down you know that the lower your standards go, the lower the candidate’s chances for success on the job. In spite of this, you press on and interview the best you can find. Unfortunately, you walk out of the interview process feeling deflated.

#3 It’s Taking You Way Too Long to Fill Vacancies

Weeks or even months go by, and you still haven’t filled your vacancy. Your leadership team is getting impatient, and you can’t blame them. They have been carrying the extra load left by the vacancy for a long time, and it’s taking its toll. They’re overwhelmed, performance is starting to dip, and they’re starting to get moody.

#4 You’re Desperate and Settling for Less

Under intense pressure to fill the vacancy, you conduct more interviews. The candidates are not so great, but you’ve seen worse. Maybe their experience is lacking, their people skills need some work, or they’re not ready for leadership at all. In any case, you settle. You pick the best out of the applicant pool and hope you can quickly mold the person into shape. Your gut tells you that you’re making a mistake, but you have no choice. You make an offer.

#5 – Your New Leaders are Not Working Out

You give your new leader a textbook-style onboarding experience. It involves coaching, mentoring, training, shadowing, the whole nine yards. Unfortunately, the person doesn’t work out. In spite of all your intervention and hard work, she doesn’t turn the corner. She doesn’t get it. Now you’re back where you started with a leadership vacancy.

If you have experienced one or all of the five warning signs above, your leadership pipeline may be broken. Don’t feel bad. It happens in many organizations. But there’s a solution.

Fixing Your Leadership Pipeline

It’s time to take a long and hard look at your succession planning strategy.

Sure you can look outside your organization to bring in new blood and get a fresh perspective. However, consider investing in leadership development for your existing high-potential employees.

When you develop the leadership skills of your existing staff, you cultivate a healthy supply of future leaders for your pipeline. The benefit of growing your own leaders is that they already have the technical expertise and insight into the philosophy, political dynamics, and specific nuances impacting your organization. This knowledge reduces the learning curve and cuts down the length of the onboarding process.

Additionally, investing in the development of your existing employees lets them know they’re valued as people and increases their engagement. This, in turn, improves your organization’s performance, which is a bonus.

Developing your high-potentials doesn’t limit your selection to internal candidates.  It’s still a good idea to cast your net far and wide and consider external candidates. However, by building the knowledge, skills, abilities, and mindset of your internal talent pool, you are setting yourself up for success in filling future leadership vacancies.

If you’re experiencing some or all of the five warning signs above, it may be time to strengthen your leadership pipeline.

SYLVIA MELENA is the Founder and CEO of Melena Consulting Group and the author of Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance.

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