Posts Tagged ‘Talent Management’

Grow your top performers in house – don’t buy them from the outside

February 19, 2011

Talent management is a very hot topic for many businesses today. A lot of time, effort and investment is being dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing key talent for key organizational roles. Quite a lot of companies are tempted to fill key roles by recruiting “stars” with proven track records from other firms, the logic being that success is guaranteed and results will come more quickly by bringing in someone from the outside with the specific skills required to do the job.

Such a policy can have a strong impact on workforce morale. Many employees may often feel they are neglected or passed over as the company seems to give a clear signal that it doesn’t have the skills internally to deliver the desired results and this in turn can lead to disengagement of good performers.

However, research recently performed by Professor Boris Groysberg from Harvard Business School indicates that it is not always such a good idea to “buy in” talent from the outside. Indeed, quite often, “stars” who have performed successfully in one environment do not necessarily succeed in their new environment and their “talent” does not necessarily transfer over into the new organisation. Why?

Boris Groysberg points out some very simple but fundamental reasons why talent is not automatically “transferable” from one environment to another.  Talent is not simply a question of “individual qualities” or “expertise” held by the person but depends also on the system which surrounds and supports that individual: the company culture, the team, the “talented” person’s  direct manager, the IT systems, etc. Talent is therefore also a product of the organization and the individual loses this when he/she moves elsewhere.

Above all, High Performance is a question of trust and depends on relationships with others. Even highly talented individuals need to build trusting relationships with the world around them and building such trust takes time.

When a “talented” individual leaves one organization for another one, building the trust network takes a lot of time and therefore the individual’s performance is likely to dip significantly in the short to medium term in the new organization while he/she is busy building such relationships.

In other words, companies may buy in the “talent” but they can’t buy the trust and that’s why  many individuals who have been successful in one organization fail to replicate their success in their new organization. Indeed, some individuals may fall victim to the “talent paradox“. A company recruits a talented individual to deliver immediate, short term  results but his/her ability to perform depends on relationships of trust which take time to build and so he/she is caught between the short-term requirement to deliver results and the long-term need to generate trust within the organization.

That’s why Boris Groysberg recommends developing talent in-house as you will then be able to lever the trust network built up by those key individuals whom you gradually grow to become  your organizational “stars”. In other words, companies  need to “make their own stars”  and effective talent management therefore requires systematic long term planning and investment, training, coaching and mentoring of key individuals from beginning to end.

In this interview, Boris Groysberg addresses many other key talent management issues such as:

  • should you inform your key people that they are considered stars?
  • do you increase the risk of losing your key people if you inform them they are considered key talents
  • Why do key talents end up leaving your organization?

Check out Boris Groysberg discussing Talent Development by viewing the video below.

Leading clever people: some useful tips for talent managers

April 4, 2010

All organizations have clever people who produce exceptional results. Talent managers and management in general spend a lot of time and effort identifying who these clever people are and where they are in the organization. The challenge is of course not only to know where they are but to ensure that the organization manages them well so that their talents are optimized.

To do so, the first step is to know what makes a clever person “tick” and what motivates him or her to perform. As with all other team members, knowing what makes a high performer tick is critical for the leader tasked with managing that resource and getting the most out of the skills that person brings to the organization.

So what are some of the key characteristics of a clever individual?

According to Bob Goffee and Gareth Jones of the London Business School, Here are some of their key traits:

1)    Clever people have a high sense of their own worth; they have skills that are not easily reproduced in the organization and they know it.

2)   Clever people ask difficult questions and are ready to challenge the status quo.

3) They know their way round the organization better than most and their roots run deeper.

4)   They are not impressed by corporate hierarchy and don’t respect rank.

5)   They expect instant access to decision makers and senior management.

6)   They are well connected outside the organization.

7)   Their passion is for what they do and not for who they work for.

8)   Even if you lead them well, they won’t thank you.

In a nutshell, clever individuals can be difficult to handle and can demonstrate behaviors which may be perceived to be rough, hard-edged and abrasive.

So what can a talent manager do to manage such profiles and get the most out of these key contributors?

Here are some tips Bob Goffee and Gareth Jones propose:

1)   Explain and persuade: you can’t tell clever people what to do. Telling them what to do undermines their self-esteem because they believe they shouldn’t have to be told what to do in the first place.

2)   Use knowledge and expertise, not hierarchy as a management lever. Clever people don’t respond well to rank or hierarchy. They do respond to knowledge and expertise.

3)   Don’t tell them how to do something, tell them what needs to be done. Clever people rise to a challenge and need to feel stretched. Give them an objective and a sense of direction but don’t tell them how to get there.

4)   Provide limits.  Clever people need space. They also need structure and discipline. Talent managers and leaders need to walk a fine line between ensuring the rules are followed and allowing the clever individuals the space to be creative. Impose the rules blindly and they will dry up. Leave them alone and they will get lost in the maze of their own ideas.

5)   Allow them to question. Clever people need to feel they make a contribution and will readily challenge the status quo. Talent managers and leaders should recognize this and engage directly with them directly rather than avoid confrontation. Clever people will feel undervalued if they are not listened to and indeed, if they can’t express their own ideas even if these ideas seem to contradict the “party line”.

6)   Give recognition and amplify achievements. Clever people are motivated by what they do and recognizing their achievements is vital. Moreover, they tend to value recognition from their peers and customers outside the organization most of all.  So it’s important to ensure they get recognition from the right sources. As they work on tasks which may often be long-term or with difficult outcomes, you don’t necessarily need to give them frequent recognition but you do need to do it. Allowing them to represent the organization to customers is only one key way of such recognition.

7)   Be tolerant of failure. Organizations can’t afford failure and invest heavily in training to reduce risk of failure. However, as clever people have already achieved a high level of expertise, they need to be stretched further and this may mean giving them high-risk projects with uncertain outcomes. Clever people respond well to difficult tasks but this means of course more exposure to failure. Organizations need to be able to provide them with such projects and provide them with more support to ensure that they learn as they go. And if they do make mistakes, talent managers need to ensure they learn from the experience without being burdened with the blame of coming up short.

8)   Protect them from red tape. Clever people don’t like red tape and feel under-utilized when they have to dedicate time to mundane administrative tasks.  Leading clever people means stepping in where necessary to clear the administrative obstacles that prevent the clever people from doing what they do best.

9)   Talk straight. Clever people know when they are being dealt “corporate speak”. Don’t try to lead them up the garden path, tell it as it is. They will appreciate it all the more.

10) Provide realworld challenges with constraints. Leaders may be tempted to motivate team members by saying that everything is possible. Clever people don’t react well to this. They prefer to take on difficult challenges with uncertain outcomes.  Tell them this and they will more than likely respond well to the challenge. They are at their most effective when they have real challenges to meet with real constraints.

11)  Help them build a network.  Some leaders may be tempted to hide away their key contributors, for fear of losing them.  However, the real leadership task is to connect the clever people up together so that they set the standards collectively for the organization to follow.

12)  Don’t hog the limelight. Some leaders feel threatened by clever individuals in their teams and take every opportunity to show who is boss. This will seriously impact the productivity of your clever people. Leaders of clever people need to get out of the way and allow them perform.

As a lot of research shows, clever people don’t necessarily want to manage others. They want to feel that their particular skills are being utilized to the full. The role of the leader of such individuals is therefore to recognize their particular needs and adapt his leadership style to meet their particular requirements.  So leaders need to look beyond the abrasiveness and hard edge and adapt their leadership style to get the most out of these key resources.  What leading clever people shows is that leaders need constantly to understand the key “motivational characteristics” of the people they lead and adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

More easily said than done but critical for all organizations. Even more critical for talent managers and for organizations alike is the need to  look beyond the behaviors to understand the drivers of those behaviors. The temptation may be to categorize those clever individuals as not conforming to the behavioral standards espoused by the organization (respect for authority, team work, discipline, etc.) and therefore more trouble than they are worth. However, the “dark side” is part and parcel of their nature and needs to be managed correctly rather than stamped out; otherwise, the organization risks killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Check out the article “Here come the clevers” by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in the April 2010 edition of Talent Management magazine.

20 behaviours which increase your risk of derailing as a leader

July 18, 2009

A lot of research has been done on the reasons why talented leaders derail. Organizations such as the Centre for Creative Leadership and leadership experts such as Lombardo and Eichinger have studied in depth the drivers which cause leaders to go off the track. Here are some of the causes below.

Leaders derail if they :

– don’t develop subordinates.
– don’t deal with conflict among or with subordinates
– delegate poorly – like to go it alone
– Get irritated easily, especially with those seen as less able
– Have trouble in new situations- rely too much on their core strengths and don’t step out of their comfort zone
– Are hands-on managers and don’t demonstrate trust in subordinates
– Don’t pay attention to essential detail
– Allow things slip through the cracks too often
– Become involved in too many activities and don’t focus on core objectives
– Are perceived as too ambitious – too interested in their next move
– Are abrasive to subordinates or colleagues
– Make others feel stupid or diminished
– Are volatile under pressure
– Don’t get the most out of people
– Are not dependable and fail to respect their commitments to others
– Stay with the same boss too long
– Don’t sell well
– Have to win and are never prepared to make concessions
– have trouble adapting to different styles within their team

This list is a very useful tool in assessing whether one is at risk of derailing. If you answer yes to 4 or more of the above questions, it’s time to implement an action plan.

To be effective in any organization today, research shows that leaders need to demonstrate the following positive behaviours:

– Be available to others: always keep the door open
– Collaborate and always seek win-win relationships
– Behave ethically: lead by example and demonstrate consistency
– Listen well: seek first to understand before being understood
– Be honest : admit mistakes
– Do not be dogmatic or authoritarian: accept there are other points of view and other ways of doing things
– Share responsibility but don’t avoid responsibility when things go wrong
– Be straightforward: say it as it is
– Support others’ ideas: encourage others to be creative and proactive
– Seek to work effectively in a team: help others to reach their goals
– Be trustworthy and respect commitments: say what you do and do what you say

When one reviews this list, it is easy to see that these positive traits apply not only to leaders but to all employees in organizations who want to succeed and progress. If you want to progress your career as a leader, constantly evaluate how you’re doing on each of these items and make sure your action plan helps you progress on all of these items.


Generation Y: are we preparing leaders to deal with new workers’ expectations?

May 17, 2009

Things are not how they used to be. Employee expectations have definitely changed with regard to work. Leaders can no longer ignore these new expectations nor refuse to adapt their leadership style and methods to deal with these new expectations.

For the baby-boomer generation (1945-late 60s), optimism was the key mood. The ethos was hard work and focus was on serving your time and proving your loyalty to your organization. Baby-boomers were happy to stay in the same company doing the same job and were not particularly demanding in terms of careers, mobility, promotion, etc.

For generation X (70s-80s), the approaching end of the cold war brought uncertainty, counterbalanced by strong political leadership. Workers continued to demonstrate commitment to work and demonstrate strong work ethos.

With generation Y, the nineties generation, this has all changed. This generation no longer demonstrates blind faith in authority and is ready to challenge and be outspoken. This generation is used to being praised and encouraged every day. They expect to be recognized and rewarded more frequently than their predecessors (Generation Y is called by some the Trophy Generation). Furthermore, they’re now probably better equipped with the same or even better tools than work can provide them. So providing them with the basic tools such as a laptop and a mobile phone is not a bonus but merely basic. Generation Y are more autonomous, seek greater control over their work, are ready to be more accountable and are looking to make an impact on the bottom line. They’re loyal to their skill and not to their company. They no longer believe in hard work nor in working long hours.

According to research, generation Y workers have 4 key expectations:

1) Global collaboration : they expect to collaborate with colleagues globally and not be confined to a small network of contacts within their specific area;
2) Direct and instant access to management: They expect more direct and more frequent communication with managers. The hierarchical distance the baby boomer generation accepted is not acceptable to Generation Y.
3) Co-creation: They expect to co-create and work transversally to solve real business issues. Executing tasks or parts of a system or process will frustrate them greatly.
4) Control/personalized work: they expect to have more control over their work and be able to personalize their work to suit their personal routine.

What does this mean for leaders today who probably belong to the baby boomer or X generations?

Some suggestions for leaders managing in a generation Y environment:

1) Be available and accessible : practice an open door policy. People work for people so leaders need to get out from behind their desks
2) Focus more on empowering workers rather than adopting directive management styles
3) Develop innovative and diversified reward and recognition policies to recognize employee contributions more frequently
4) Include workers in the decision making process more often
5) Communicate constantly to workers not only what to do but why they should do it
6) Build collaborative teams which encourage team work and co-construction of solutions. Work in project management mode and allow team members to extend their network of connections
7) Be flexible in how work is organized and delegate real responsabilities and not simply tasks
8) Focus not only on the short term but also the long term: develop employees by offering them more structured career paths and internal mobility

Leaders today are facing a critical challenge: how to adapt their leadership practices and style to get the best out of Generation Y employees. They can’t do so alone. Organizations have a responsability to help managers understand how workers’ expectations have changed and how they can adapt their leadership style to these new conditions. More importantly, organizations needs to provide leaders with the tools and processes which allow leaders to reward and recognize, train and develop, empower generation Y employees more effectively.

View this video which presents the issues in a very concise way.

How are leaders dealing with the new work paradigm?

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