Talent and Performance – how strategic does it need to get ?

7 06 2010

Again I am thinking how easy it must be to select the wrong people for strategic roles. Why do I say so? Well it seems to happen so often or more often we allow people to be promoted into strategic roles whilst they are not capable of doing them.  Is this sooooo important? It seems not in many organisations where the rush to fill the gap is more important than the effort put into getting the right person to do the role.  I find this ‘talent sabotage’ process a real issue in many client organizations, either because of pressure from line to fill roles or because of lack of foresight and insight into the damage this does. We are damaging our own companies success by not addressing the issue.

Imagine if you will a sales and marketing dominated company ( say a fmcg or a consumer facing company)  appointing / recently or sometime in the past  – a person of average ability into their sales and marketing head role. So a strategically important role being filled by an average player. Their business success depends on getting more market share, better margins and more awareness of their offer than their competitors but they fill it, for convenience, misplaced loyalty to some long time-server, or just plain inability to select, with an average performer. When their business suffers they look for structural or product or marketplace solutions. Wrong !! Talent in organizations drives performance – right person, right role , right time. Get this wrong and you can spend a fortune on consultants telling you how to change your offer and re-engineer your processes etc, when the problem is the people.

Would you like to undergo a major piece of surgery and be told (or find out later) , that the surgeon is the best they could get, not the best there was? I would like to think that business is the same – minimise the risk of failure – it’s not life or death but the  principle applies all the same.

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Crisis? What Crisis? – leading in tough times

22 10 2008

Apologies to Supertramp for borrowing the title of their brilliant 1974 album, see how old I am ! You cannot escape the news and it’ s at least 40% about the economic, banking, credit, recession and mortgage crisis.  If you think it’s all over and start to plan you life, bang, another broadside hits. So leadership in Crisis, what about it?

So reality is we’ve all been living on credit, low interest rates and rising house prices for too long – the grim reaper of fate has decided it’s time to pay the toll.  There are few, if any, sectors that will not be affected by the downturn,  globally and nationally.  So what has this got to do with this blog and my thinking?  Well we are talking here about the role of leaders in change and change is responsive as well as preplanned.  Here is an unprecedented learning opportunity for leaders – as the trite saying goes. However in reality it’s a time when leaders need to show their courage, their confidence and their competence even more openly.  When the going gets tough the tough get going or better put by Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you

This really is the time for leaders to show some courage and take the initiative to share the why for their actions. Many business heads will be contemplating the need to restructure, reorganize and re size their operation. Take our advice and do this along with people and not in spite of them.  Your employees will be worried about their livelihoods,  their houses,  their family,  their pensions and their next pay cheque.  Do not add to their worries by not informing them frankly and first about any plans to change the organization. These are the people who have served you well through the boom, so be honest and deal with them as adults in the bust times.  As early as you know there are plans inform them – bad news, hope where there is some and just news about the organizations position.

Of course you will be held to some extent responsible, particularly is you display little in the way of pain yourself. However if the executives have taken a hit as well as the staff and you openly and honestly share with them the plans for the business though the tough times then you will gain their respect.  This is an investment in morale, engagement and loyalty that you cannot do any other time.  Employ adults, expect them to behave like adults and that means treating them as such, not being mis guided  and over protective or at worst dismissive of their contribution.

Crisis management is good man management – people matter more than the balance sheet





Managing upwards – getting the most from your boss

30 09 2008

I have had  a number of personal experiences of being managed badly, but that’s not surprising in the long career I have survived ! What do I mean by being managed badly – well to me it’s being under used, rather than overworked.

I remember seeing a comment on my personnel file as I left a company after 20 years of varied service in a series of fantastic roles. It said ” mark has an unorthodox approach to authority and is one of the most difficult but talented people i have managed”.  I can live with that as a company epitaph.

I have had bosses who want the ideas but don’t want to share the credit when they are implemented. For a short time this can be endured, but it always leads to dissatisfaction in the long term.  I have had bosses who are not as smart as I am, and doing things that are plain wrong, but won’t or can’t hear alternatives. This is again a problem in the longer term, as you are working on things that are fundamentally wrong – and your advice has not been taken or heard.

As employees we need to be heard, not always agreed with but also not always dismissed as disloyal. What is the point in having staff and not using their collective or individual skills to get a good result.The  positive deviants we rave about in the book are not going to be easy to manage, if they were they would not be so valuable to the organization.

Why the post on managing upwards? – well it seems there are a lot of people I meet in conferences  that are in similar positions to myself in my early career. They want to do well, show initiative and challenge things in a positive way but their efforts are either hijacked or rebuffed.  In some cases this can just  be mildly annoying in others the trigger to leave the organization.  So what can you do in a situation where the boss is not getting the best from you and maybe taking more than is fair?

Perception is reality – and reality is what you can get away with.  This stolen quote is a fantastic summary of how I feel about being managed by others.  I am arrogant enough to know when I am right and when I have a skill or experience that is useful to the organization. I am also humble enough to know I cannot change other people at will to be more like a boss I would admire.  So I change the perception of the relationship – I manage them, in my mind, and they work for me.  This change in perception, if you are smart, can change the whole working relationship. I play the game by my rules – getting the pet projects I want into the agenda of the boss, whether they credit me or not.  In  this way I know who is in control, and let’s face it if they had really good ideas we would probably support them, but in the absence of their own, let them have ours free. But also let’s not forget – they need us to help implement.

Also, use the experience to build your own CV and create a valuable proposition for others to seek your employment.  People leave people – you don’t leave businesses – no one ever left MicroSoft or Nestle – they left poor bosses or people who didn’t manage the talent in front of them.

Managing the boss is a art – but one that anyone can learn.  Be clear about the commitments you are going to deliver and extract a price for delivery that is meaningful and worthwhile to you.  Search this blog or read the books section on commitments and you will realize the power of negotiation when you have all the ideas.

Remember – the person who knows how will always have a job. The person who knows why will always be his boss.

Now you know why being smart is a good thing and that not being able to manage you is the bosses problem not yours.





Letting go

18 07 2007

We understand that the best work is seldom done by ourselves. How come most leaders we work with still find it hard to let go of the reigns of business? Sometimes its having the confidence to allow others to do what they are good at, and not need to supervise them to death. At other times its just being humble enough to recognise that if we hire talented people then we need them to use their talents, its after all what we hired them for.

 We have coached people who despite their success as business managers, find leading, letting others follow and do things, difficult. Particular entrepreneurs find giving away their baby hard to do, but fail to realise that being tied to one project is probably not the best use of their flair and fire. Failure to see this leads to frustrated talents and frustrated managers.

Don’t try to become irreplaceable, its not worth it. Become risible, irrepressible, irritatingly happy but not irreplaceable.





Hello world!

16 07 2007

Hi Readers,

It seemed this was the time to catch up with the world of publishing online and start blogging. I have started this to help give a feedback route for the presentations we do, that is Jonas and myself and also get some ideas flowing. Re Energizing the Corporation, how leaders make change happen, hits the bookshelvels and virtual listings in January 2008, but the ideas are out there now.

 Over the next few months this site will become a place to check out some new , some old, some funky and some practical ideas to Re Energize your business.

Mark