Strategies to develop your top talent

Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

Failing Forward

“‘Failing forward’ is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down, learn from your mistake, and move forward in a better direction.” John Maxwell

When you develop talent, you need to be ready for failure.  It is just crazy to expect people will learn something well the first time.  Of course, you shouldn’t put people in a position to fail especially if the stakes are high, either for them personally or for the organization.  But failure is a necessary part of learning and leadership formation.

Talented individuals also need the right mindset.  Sometimes if they have not met much adversity the first experiences of failure can be hard to face.  That’s when “failing forward” needs to be learned.

This is not the same as the Peter Principle, which basically says people get promoted to the highest level that their incompetency can handle.  It assumes a static case or stalled development while promotions continue.   Failing forward is not about career promotion and covering up incompetency.  It’s an attitude of learning to recover, to demonstrate both resiliency and course correction.  There is no real “failing forward” without positive change involved.

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Question:  What are the three critical numbers you use to manage your business?  As a leader, what’s your backup system (or at least your plan) when the game suddenly changes?

I’ll get to that question in a minute, but first let me share a personal story.  I continue to be surprised by some of the misconceptions that people have about flying.  This past weekend I was in a conversation with a man who had a friend that was a pilot of a small plane.  This man’s friend took off on a trip cross country and not too far along he had an instrument failure.  (more…)

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We remember today a speech given 100 years ago in Paris by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne one year after he left the presidency.  The larger speech was about Citizenship in a Republic, and the most quoted section talked about the man in the arena.  Many people have borrowed the words or echoed the sentiment, perhaps most famously Richard Nixon in his 1974 resignation speech.  The original attribution to Roosevelt seems mostly forgotten except by historians.

But I think it’s important to look at the fuller context of this speech which I’ll show with some select quotations and my own comments as they relate to personal development.  Roosevelt addressed an educated French audience and his topic was about the kind of citizenship that makes a republic strong.

“In the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average women, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues.” (more…)

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Time to get moving

“Let him who would move the world first move himself.” (Socrates)

January’s resolutions are long gone–time to get moving on what you’re really committed to.  I’m still hearing from people who are writing their own version of what the year ahead looks like using my free workbook “The Year Ahead 2010″.  You can get a copy for yourself and start  moving yourself, then watch out–the world will move too.

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How to stay fit

Earlier this year, I started back on a path to physical fitness (see personal training).  It’s been good to get back in shape and build stamina, endurance, strength, balance and more energy.  I sought out a trainer to teach me more about a system called CrossFit, which I recommend to anyone.

I was also intrigued by an article last month in the Wall Street Journal about marathoners and the impact on personal fitness.  If you have run a marathon, my congratulations to you.  If you’re a serial marathoner like the optometrist I met on the plane last month between Boise and Denver, you’ve got my respect.  For those who have run a marathon (and those who never will) and who struggle now to stay fit, read on. (more…)

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I always have a choice

“I always have a choice.”  A simple, bold declaration begins my personal philosophy of choice that includes both personal and interpersonal axioms in it.  This is bold because on a subjective level it oftens feels that I have no choice.  But the deeper truth is that I really do.  In a cascade of consequences, everything flows out from fundamental choices that I make.  What I choose to focus on becomes more vivid and real.  If I pay attention, I become more aware of all that’s happening.  I cannot always understand the choices of others, but I can choose whether to see them with empathy, and I can really choose how I see people–either as competent or pitiful.  I came across the essay by Catherine Royce recently.  She speaks a similar message very poignantly, arising from her own life experiences.  Recently, a close friend of hers told more of this story.

I have seven axioms in my personal philosophy of choice, and these guide me when I get confused or bewildered or just need perspective.  What about you?  Do you have a personal philosophy of life and are you willing to share any of it with us?

I always have a choice, and I’m going to make sure I make better choices today from greater awareness and wisdom.

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How to give an appraisal

Groan…  Yes, we’re going to talk about performance appraisals/annual reviews.

Why do we dislike them so much?  Common reasons:

  • The process feels awkward.
  • It doesn’t yield meaningful information.
  • Bosses don’t do it well.
  • Employees experience great anxiety.
  • It seems so subjective or unfair

How can we do a better job? (more…)

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depressed_by_vinayshivakumarI see a lot of hand-wringing going on around me these days.  “What will happen in the economy?”  “When will things get better?”  The causes for worry and uncertainty are endless, but I have a simple way to respond.


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A new era of responsibility

obama_inaugurationToday was a momentous day for the US and the world with the inauguration of Barack Obama.  In my opinion, the most meaningful line from his speech was when he invoked “a new era of responsibility”  and talked about the need to put childish things behind us and do some growing up.  This looks like a much-needed dose of reality and “tough love”  by an emerging leader who now has a very difficult and challenging job to do.

Leadership and change always begin with personal responsibility and truth-telling.  If you want to develop top talent, start by leveling with people.  Tell them the truth and enlist their help in being part of the solution.  Now is the time for responsibility and assertive (yet humble) leadership.

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I had a colleage ask me today about talent management and my experience with how employees respond to talent management efforts at work.  Here’s some of what I shared with her.

From the employee side, there is a natural concern about fairness and favoritism; will Talent Management (TM) be administered fairly and give everyone an equal chance to succeed?  Will it be a cover for leaders who are championing/grooming/promoting their own favorites?


Also, most TM efforts or programs have some kind of measurement included with them.  Some of those include personal profiles or talent assessments.  Some people have a natural fear about how those will be viewed or used by management.  Other measurements are more tied to performance management or productivity or contribution to the company.  Some employees don’t like the additional scrutiny that comes with measurement–period.


Honestly, a lot of “talent management” efforts are really HR-sponsored drives that are modest in their goals/design and don’t have real staying power.  Employees have a legitimate right to question if TM is a “flavor of the year” hobby that will be eventually abandoned in 12-24 months.  That often seems to be what happens unless management is fully committed to it and is willing to make it a robust, long-lasting change in how the organization thinks about and practices talent management.


Of course, I encourage leaders who are committed to developing top talent to exercise some empathy and think first about how their efforts are going to be received by employees.  It can avoid a lot of pain and waste later on.


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