Happy March! The “new” year is moving quickly and spring brings a lot of great things: relief from an unusually bitter and prolonged winter, the home stretch of another busy season for our CPA firm clients and friends, the start of our traditional ConvergenceCoaching busy season, a renewed sense of urgency to achieve that beach-ready body, and for many, excitement at the official opening of baseball season. My boyfriend is a baseball fan, specifically the Chicago Cubs, and some of our recent conversations have been about the Cubs’ newer players who are starting their first season in Major League Baseball.

Baseball is cool because it places a strong emphasis on targeted player development. Like many sports, there is a professional level or Major League Baseball (MLB) and a semi-pro level or Minor League Baseball (MiLB). But unlike many sports, the Minor League teams typically have affiliated contracts with Major League clubs who are actively observing and developing those Minor League players. Minor League players are staged for professional careers but require growth in specific areas and skills.

The Cubs are unarguably focused on developing players via their five affiliated Minor League clubs, which are split based on talent. Major League decision-makers look at a specific system of measurements to determine when to invite players to Wrigley Field. While the Cubs haven’t had great success in game wins in recent years, they have been focused on grooming players for success in the Major League via their five different “farm” clubs.

Recently, my colleague Renee Moelders wrote about the importance of not losing sight of potential leaders within your own firm and hindering your chance of developing “homegrown” leaders. I want to expand on this and ask: What conversations are you having with your people? Renee shared that you should ask your people about their hopes and dreams surrounding their role within your firm and that you should listen to their responses with hopeful interpretations.

Another question for you: If you’re asking employees about their personal hopes and dreams with your firm, are you sharing your firm leadership team’s hopes and dreams for that person in return? If you see someone as a potential leader in your firm, does that person know this and has he or she been given guidance on the path to achieve that dream? If your firm does not see someone as a fit for a leadership position that they’ve expressed interest in, are you devising ways to grow and develop that person to see if they can develop more potential? The person desiring a leadership position should be open to feedback and development as that is part of being “leaderly.” Minor League Baseball teams have player development contracts (PDC) which would be similar to what are often called Individual Development Plans (IDP) in the corporate world. Create IDPs with each of your employees to help them grow, whether they seek leadership positions or not.

The Minor League Baseball system is sometimes referred to as a “farm” system because of the idea that they’re growing the next crop of great players. ConvergenceCoaching partner Jennifer Wilson wrote her own perspective on farming a sustainable and successful firm in “Five farm strategies to grow your firm” and she stresses the importance of planting seeds and raising “special sheep” to help grow your own leaders internally. Recruiting and retention is only becoming a bigger challenge. The combination of retiring leaders and an increasingly competitive recruiting world has us reiterating the easiest first strategy your firm can pursue to set the stage for a sustained future: developing your people early and continuously, and grooming your future leaders for a seat at the table.

Ask your employees about their career goals so that you can remain on top of your people strategy. Share where you see your future leaders in their development and mutually agree on the correct path for each individual. Place your future leaders or your “special sheep” in a Minor League at your firm – one that is focused on grooming each player in their unique areas for development. Your future leaders will be far more motivated when they are clear on where they stand within the future of the firm.

What Minor League development options does your firm have in place? Do you offer structured leadership programs for your future leaders? Do you seek outside assistance with leadership development? Please share your farm strategies with us and our readers!

Kind regards,