Strategies to develop your top talent

Top talent goes the distance

olympic-ringsThe Vancouver 2010 games are now history.  What a ride it has been!

I watched a lot of the games and was inspired and energized by the displays of dedication, hard work and concentration.

Training and preparation are the obvious ticket to get a participant to the games.  Some trained harder than others.  But on gameday itself, in the hour of competition, at the exact minute and second when fractions count, that’s when the small things become really big.  Leaning too far this direction, and the favored front-runner takes a fall.  A moment of hesitation on the short track and you don’t get to pass the person in front of you and qualify for the medal round.  It was clear that the mental game is a really big part of top performance.

What inspires so many is the all-out effort and dedication that these athletes show.  For those of us in the working world, how often do we push up against limitations and our own desire to stop, to move on to something else instead of taking the time to get it right?  Developing top talent isn’t done in days, or through a short training program.  It requires dedication, investment, going the second and the third mile, revising and honing performance, review and feedback, great coaching and a coachable spirit.

I’m glad we have the Olympics to show us these things.   There are too few places dedicated to producing top talent, champions and world-record results.  It’s time to bring the Olympic spirit, ethos and training regimen inside of more organizations.

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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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The year ahead – 2010


We start a new year and it’s a great opportunity to do some personal strategic planning.  Well-run companies and organizations take time annually to plan strategically for the future and to set their course of action.  Why not give yourself the same advantage?

I wrote a guidebook to help in the process of personal strategic planning that is available for the asking.  Send an email or request it from me directly and post a comment about how you’re using it.

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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 Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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What are you thinking about?

Good performers give thought to their actions.  “What am I doing?  How can I do it better?”  To improve their performance they focus on their performance and the actions and skills needed to perform well.

Top performers focus attention on their habits of thought.  They already know and have learned well the actions and skills needed for good performance.  They focus instead on what makes the difference between good, solid performance and top performance.  In short, the difference is the mental game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Making change stick

McKinsey published an interesting paper earlier this year titled ‘The Irrational Side of Change Management’

It provides insight about traditional approaches to change management and how success or failure is is determined by execution and practical implementation of the approaches.  Organizational change requires the following four conditions for change:
  • a compelling story
  • role modeling
  • reinforcing mechanisms
  • capability building
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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 can this be?  Productivity is supposed to be a good thing.  Productivity is the measure of how much a business produces divided by the number of workers, so if productivity goes up a business should make more money.  How can this be a talent killer? Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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