Strategies to develop your top talent

Archive for the ‘Metrics and Measurement’ Category

I was speaking at the ChinaSourcing Summit in Hangzhou, China, last week and got the chance to share some research and ideas with other industry leaders about how to upgrade the quality of management conversations with employees in a service and data-intensive industry.

ChinaSourcing Summit Hangzhou


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Golden Partnership

When two parties can work well together and help each other accomplish what neither one can do by themselves and when they can do that in a way that elevates work above the ordinary and gives it more meaning, that is what I have begun to call “golden partnership”.

Here are a few examples from recent experience. (more…)

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How do you make the unruly world of sales more manageable?  One way is to align your salesforce on a generally agreed-on sales process and then train them on it and coach them to success.

Key to such an approach are the sales managers: getting them to support this approach and then giving them the tools and training and support to make it successful. (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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Do you know how hard your online employees are working?  Did you say you don’t have any employees?  If you have a website, blog, Facebook page, eBay store or any other kind of online commercial presence, I suggest you do have online employees, and it would be in your interest to think of them that way.

I was coaching another consultant today who does not have a website but who said she wanted one and knew she needed one.  She’s not super-savvy on web technology, nor does she care to be.  I suggested that she think of building a website/blog as if she were hiring an employee.  Here’s how the logic works… (more…)

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Measuring talent

Can talent really be measured?  Many people will tell you it cannot.  I have a different view.

Every day we size up talent by observation, through conversation and based on our own personal experience.  Imagine that you are hiring someone for a job.  When a person is sloppy, cocky or self-centered, it tends to diminish our assessment of them.  When they are confident, open to learning and focused on others, we tend to give them higher marks.  We have just measured talent.  It may not be the best way (more…)

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I’ve advocated many times for an “evidence based” approach to management and business.  Too often I come across people who are getting acceptable results but when pressed to explain, they clearly don’t know why it’s working.  When they stop getting results, they don’t know what to change or do different.  That’s why I urge people to test your assumptions, take accurate measurements, keep score, notice what’s working–and what isn’t.   I believe it is crucial to avoid learning the wrong lessons, which happens when we draw conclusions about our successes and failures that are not based on the facts, but on our prejudices, assumptions, or a strong-minded person’s opinion.

brown_bear_by_marshmallow1We also have to guard against mistaking our measurements and our models with the whole picture.  There’s always more than what we can see or measure, and we need to avoid wearing self-made blinders.  It’s in the hidden spaces that wild and chaotic forces lurk.


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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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ruler_by_mauiinvermontPardon the somewhat philosophical title for this post.  But I do ask it with some earnestness.  I commented before about how “talent” is climbing up the list of important business issues that executives are paying attention to.  I also noted that CEO’s seem to have great difficulties explaining what they mean by talent.

Here’s why:  they lack data.  Hard measurements and operational data belong to the CFO and the production side of the business.  When it comes to talent, we can’t agree on what we’re talking about because we simply cannot measure it.  The truth is we can, but most people don’t know how. 


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Get an instrument

If you want to create change, one of the better strategies you can adopt is to get an accurate instrument and place it (along with some training on how to use it) in a prominent location where you (and other people) can’t miss it.  Real-time feedback allows you to make small changes and fine-tune your results.

MPG Instrument

I recently bought a new car and it has a sensitive gauge that tells you how many miles-per-gallon you are getting at the present time.  I’m already paying more attention to this gauge and it has helped me in changing my driving habits for the better (to be more fuel-efficient).

Apply this to people in an organization–even a small one–and it becomes obvious that equipping people with a new tool is much more likely to yield change than talking about change, management lectures or internal communication initiatiaves.  These other activities are useful too, but I’ve seen too many leaders and companies rely on them and end up with very little meaningful change.

Like any new tool, you have to learn to use it properly.  When I took training to be a pilot, I initially spent too much time looking at the instruments-I assumed that’s how you fly the plane.  My instructor had to emphasize to get my head up and look outside the airplane.  The great majority of pilots of small planes fly visually by looking out the window 90% of the time.  Only instrument-rated pilots and airline captains fly solely by reference to the instruments, which is a much more mentally taxing activity that requires extra training, practice and licensing.  So here’s my caveat: when you get an instrument for measuring real-time performance, beware the tendency to stare at it and miss the other information and contextual clues about what is going on around you.  If you can learn to do that (and it is possible), you will be much better positioned to build a high-performing organization and drive results and accountability further down to the individuals that actually do the work.

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