Adam Bryant recently interviewed Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion, for his New York Times "Corner Office" column (an excellent weekly feature). Gordon explained one technique she has used to further the development of young emerging leaders in her organization:
I use one dinner a year with my board to bring in young, high-potential managers. We have everybody give an “elevator speech.” You have three minutes to tell the board and other people in the room where you came from, the challenges you’re facing and how you’re trying to create value for the company. Everybody might want to take 15 minutes, but you have to be succinct. This is part of what we’re looking for in people who have potential; it’s all about communication. What are the challenges you have, and you have three minutes to explain them, because there are 40 of you and we’re going to be here all night otherwise. And if you take somebody else’s time, that’s not respectful. It’s all about being succinct and articulate.
Why do I like this technique? First, it provides the board an opportunity to interact with people who may become senior leaders in the organization in the future. They can begin to develop a relationship with these individuals. Second, it challenges these young leaders' communication capabilities. Can they be succinct, interesting, and engaging? Can they create a powerful conversation based on their three minutes of remarks? Third, it fosters the establishment potentially of some key mentoring relationships. Not only may the young leaders gather advice and counsel from board members, but the board members may learn a great deal by hearing from young people who come from a different generation and may be more similar to the firm's actual core consumers. Fourth, the invitation to present, in and of itself, offers a wonderful reward and recognition for these high performers. Yes, they would love to be paid well. However, these folks also care about their future career path. Having this opportunity certainly will be welcomed and may help retain top young talent. Finally, the board hears from voices other than senior managers about what is going on at the company. That can be important. Senior managers naturally filter information as they present updates to the board. Senior executives present information through their lens and perspective. Having a different voice and perspective talk to the board can be helpful.