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Strategies to develop your top talent

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

We have looked before at best practices in developing top talent.

Sometimes, we need to also admit and learn from the mistakes that have cost us the most (and in many cases are still costing us).

In their HBR article, Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt give us more to ponder about these six mistakes.

Mistake 1: Assuming That High Potentials Are Highly Engaged

Let’s begin by talking truth about your bright stars.  

Why is the picture so negative?  Rising stars are young, talented and usually know it.  Their gigantic personal expectations are matched with lots of alternatives. (more…)
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Keep Your Top Talent

Leadership development programs aimed at rising stars have become a staple of most large organizations.  Here in Shanghai I see this in the people practices of global multinational companies, whether American, European, or Asian.

Most people acknowledge that the top talent is where you can have a great impact on business results, either in a positive or negative way depending on how you manage it.

An article in Harvard Business Review by Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt shed some interesting light on the topic.
What I have found surprising in my own experience is that despite the effort, money and time being spent, the results are often lackluster, at least initially.  Maybe our expectations timeline is too short.

Here are some ideas about what works and what doesn’t in developing your top talent.  This came from research in more than 100 organizations worldwide over 2005-2011, which clearly has been tumultuous time in the global economy.

10 Critical Components of a Talent-Development Program

1. Explicitly test candidates in three dimensions: ability, engagement, and aspiration.

2. Emphasize future competencies needed (derived from corporate-level growth plans) more heavily than current performance when you’re choosing employees for development.

3. Manage the quantity and quality of high potentials at the corporate level, as a portfolio of scarce growth assets. (more…)

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Three dimensional leadership

When people describe leadership they often use contrasting concepts:  either command and control, or servant leaders.  Others contrast hard-edge management by the numbers with a softer and emotionally intelligent “coach.”  Even personal styles are seen as either loud, direct and aggressive, or quiet, indirect and reflective.  When leaders reflect on their own expressions of leadership, I’ve noticed they also tend to self-define in contrasting terms.

When we frame leadership in these either/or bipolar contrasts, we tend to get more of the same:  two dimensional leadership.  It’s either black or white, hard or soft, aggressive or reflective.

It’s time we embrace three dimensional leadership.  We value leaders primarily for their 1) good judgment,  2) decisions and 3) their ability to craft and communicate a compelling vision that others want to follow.  Since these are all part of the domain of value, I turn to the foremost expert in valuation and value analysis for some guidance. (more…)

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Failing to develop leaders

“I’ll bet most of the companies that are in life or death battles got into that kind of trouble because they didn’t pay enough attention to developing their leaders.”  Wayne Calloway, former Chairman, Pepsico Inc.

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Can leadership be learned?

“Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it.”  Henry Mintzberg

Leadership can be studied as a subject.  You can read about it.  But you don’t learn to lead by reading.  You learn by leading, by taking risks, striking out in a particular direction and noticing others are following you.  And you fail too.  Or you fail to meet expectations.  You learn leadership this way, when you try and fail and then try again and don’t give up.

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Is employee training-at the enterprise level-an expense or a benefit?

It is very illuminating to look at how different organizations view what they spend on employee training.  At the highest level, training usually gets accounted for as a type of payroll expense or an employee benefit.  Some forms of training are certainly that (tuition reimbursement comes to mind).  Other companies count training as a cost of doing business, especially if they operate in an industry where safety and/or regulatory compliance are important parts of the business.

Apart from how CFO’s might count or classify training, it’s even more instructive to look at how the top leaders of an organizations think about, plan for and implement training as part of enabling the success of their business plans.  Those that do regard training this way are likely to see it as an essential business investment.  Those who don’t are more likely to see training as a perk or optional benefit that they can afford when there is extra cash.

The basic way that the leaders of a business view training comes through in their discussions and decisions, especially around planning and budget time.

However you view it, it’s worth examining your assumptions and actions about how valuable training is for the overall organization.

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One client, a consulting firm, faces several challenges.  They are in a high growth market and they are eager to win market share, so they are hiring consultants to prepare for the work demand.  They need to manage internal operations more thoroughly while systematically developing their talent within.  Where do you start? (more…)

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Culture clearly plays a part in leadership and how it is expressed in different places.  People who live or move within different cultures encounter these differences and know they are real; the words to accurately describe or understand the differences, however, are often lacking.  We resort to general observations or broad-brush statements that are riddled with exceptions.

The experiences of leaders in different countries clearly shape them.  Two researchers looking at leaders in China, India and Singapore noted difference in challenging assignments, developmental relationships, dealing with hardships, education and personal experience.  All of these influences shape individuals into the leaders they are, and gaining an appreciation for each individual’s personal biography is insightful and essential for understanding their own expression of leadership with its gaps and its strong areas.

One way of understanding leadership differences is through behavior styles.  (more…)

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Strategy-driven organizations

“We’re so busy putting out fires and trying to keep the business going that strategy just doesn’t show up on the screen.  We seem to drift a lot,” one leader confided in me.  I could relate because I’ve been part of an organization that couldn’t maintain a strategic focus.   We had flavor-of-the-month and reliably we would worry over sales each quarter, but strategy never got consistent attention.

The lack of strategic focus is a leadership issue, even when the leaders of an organization “live and breathe” strategy or see themselves as very strategic (but you might be surprised how many don’t).  Such organizations also find it difficult to hang on to their talent for long. (more…)

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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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