Turning the talent telescope around part 1 – new thinking for identifying talent within an organisation
I know the intent of most talent management programmes is good. We need talented leaders in the future, they want developing, let’s put them together and grow our own leaders. What could go wrong? Unfortunately lots of things – for a start, how people are selected as talent for the future is often the problem. It is billed as a fair and consistent process, with ‘calibration’ meetings between departments, to supposedly measure one person in Finance against another in Marketing and assess which one has the most potential for the future. However you package it, it is one human opinion against another, and the problem with humans is they are beautifully flawed – are the people making the recommendations looking for the same things the organisation needs to thrive in the future, or are they sub consciously recruiting in their mould, championing the people who show traits that they value including the ones who manage their profile the best?
To truly develop leaders for the future, you have to radically change the way you look at talent and leadership in an organisation, turning the telescope around and seeing things very differently. What if, instead of selecting the chosen few for a talent programme, every single person was encouraged to develop their unique talents and be the best they can be? What if, instead of seeing leadership as hierarchically managing people and something to be aspired to, everyone was encouraged to be a leader of themselves and others, setting more of their own context, asking for forgiveness not permission? What would an organisation look like, feel like, perform like, if instead of focussing on people’s weaknesses and development needs it focused on people’s strengths and stretched them to be even better in these areas?
This may sound like Utopia and ‘nice to think about, won’t work in practice’. However in our experience the far sighted organisations are already changing the way they are developing their talent. We have worked with a number of organisations recently, and helped them to rethink what they are trying to achieve through the development. Often it is driven by numbers – ‘we have 100 senior leaders with 20% attrition, therefore we need 20 new ones every year. Let’s put 40 people through a talent programme and ensure half of them are good enough to be promoted within a year’. This drives competency frameworks, skills matrices for senior leadership, and talent programmes that ‘plug’ the perceived skill and behaviour gaps in the layer below.
This starts from a deficient viewpoint – the leaders at the lower level have something missing, we must fill them up with new/different things to help them to be capable of this very special senior leadership mantle. Most middle/senior leaders I come into contact with say the biggest thing that stops them getting to the next level is their own self doubts and fears, which stop them being the leader they could be. Therefore they already know how they need to lead at a more senior level – the reason they don’t is to do with confidence and self belief, probably fuelled by years of being told what they can’t do rather than what they can. This is the key to identifying and growing talent differently – old thought processes and development methods won’t deliver you the talent for the future that you need.
If you want to improve the confidence of your leaders, and understand how you can think differently about talent in your organisation, why not attend our free leadership Casester on 1st May in London, where we will hear from National Trust about how they are tackling the issue, or book onto our open workshop on June 3/4 to experience our approach for yourself.