Next-Generation Leadership at Bank of America

Bank of America’s philosophy of talent management and development is driven by seven guiding principles that create a mindset that is pervasive across the bank’s executive ranks

Bank of America has always been a talent leader in the financial services industry. Its philosophy of talent management and development is driven by seven guiding principles that create a mindset that is pervasive across the bank’s executive ranks:

1. Leaders really do matter in managing and driving accountability, results and culture.
2. Performance rules: Top performers, then high potentials.
3. Talent is an enterprise resource.
4. Today’s top-performing leaders aren’t necessarily tomorrow’s.
5. A broad set of experiences and assignments is the best classroom; yet, a balanced approach is necessary for development.
6. Today’s top 100 must leave a legacy of future talent by teaching, mentoring and serving as role models to others on what it takes to succeed.
7. Invest in the best and focus the rest.

To operationalize this philosophy, the bank’s talent management and development efforts are structured around a core set of frameworks that includes the Bank of America core values, a 70-20-10 development framework that includes experience-based development (70 percent), coaching and feedback (20 percent), and learning (10 percent); targeted transition development for leaders at each turn of the leadership pipeline; and regular assessment to gain deeper insight into the experiences, leadership capabilities and vulnerabilities, and ambition of senior executives. This combination of philosophy and structure provides an integrated approach to talent management and leadership development that focuses on enhancing performance today and preparing leaders for the future.

With these solid foundations for developing leaders already laid, Bank of America turned its focus to improving the executive team’s line of sight to the bank’s top 50 executives and identifying leaders with the potential to hold one of the top jobs at the bank within the next five years.

Titled the Next Generation Leadership Forum (NGLF), the action learning program included a rigorous assessment process as part of the learning experience. Through these assessments, each participant was evaluated on experience, ambition and leadership capabilities using multiple assessment instruments, interviews and observation. The combination of rigorous assessment, focusing the best minds in the organization on mission-critical issues through action learning, as well as hands-on observation and involvement of the top team, resulted in a deeper understanding of the bank’s senior leadership bench at both the aggregate and individual levels.

Through the NGLF effort, Brian Fishel, senior vice president of executive and leadership development for Bank of America, and his team learned several key lessons, including:
• Executive committee engagement and sponsorship stimulated personal interest and new ways of looking at leadership and leaders. It also created more disciplined dialogue about potential and bench strength.
• Integrating talent management and leadership development through action learning provided better impact for the investment and an enriched experience for participants.
• The combination of learning, observation and assessment provided a more comprehensive understanding of the bank’s senior talent and the richest insights into those with potential to do more.
• Work on business issues must be relevant to engage the participants, obtain a true picture of capabilities and stimulate meaningful development.
The lessons learned through NGLF now are part of the bank’s integrated portfolio of executive talent initiatives and will play an important role in the bank’s leadership development strategy in the future.