Talent identification: A leadership imperative

JUST recently at a function I was chairing at a local hotel, a young man from one of the participating organisations approached me at tea break and asked: “Mukoma (brother), our director has asked us to come up with some idea that would promote workplace interactivity and creative thinking.” The young man asked if I could come up with a proposal for that programme which can be initiated at their organisation.

People Management Issues with Robert Mandeya

It got me thinking that the directors at this company wanted a programme that would help them identify and nurture talent amongst some of their young workforce. What a brilliant idea!

Many a time the top leadership of a company usually does not have much time for much else other than the bigger picture and the bottom-lines. Numbers and figures conversions, revenues, turnovers, profits, etc are of paramount importance to every business organisation; indeed, the very reason for its existence. Indeed no business entity can survive if the required numbers, especially profits and revenue, are not up to the mark. Thus, in this maze of business demands, leaders often lose sight of the bigger picture and miss out on some important intervention strategies that would help them grow their business and even double their profits.

Identifying talent

It is no secret that it is the human element of the organisation which delivers the numbers. If you have the right set of people, adequately motivated and under a manager whose leadership skills can effectively channel the collective energies of the group, the numbers will happen. Which brings me to the operative phrase in this scenario: “the right set of people.” Even exceptional leadership qualities would go down the drain without a team with specific talents that complement each other. That does not mean that leadership and the talent being managed are independent of each other or that any leader has to make do with the talent he sees in a given team. To the contrary, spotting and managing talent effectively are two abilities that a good leader must have in his skill-set.

As your role in a given organisation grows to a point where you lead a team, there is a certain shift in focus. When we talk of being in charge of a group, we have already established that they have a common objective that somehow is a vital part of the larger picture of what the organisation does.

The human side

Effectively, your target is to ensure that the right persons get assigned to the right tasks such that the needful is done most effectively in the least possible time. Getting the right talent is only half the job: people are not equipment. They must be nurtured and groomed to perform and grow in their roles for the organisation so they may perform to the fullest potential of their talents. You, the leader, must get to know every team member as far as possible and try to gauge what makes each one tick.

You do not want your best team members coming down with a bad case of workplace blues just due to lack of motivation.

Good leaders are also a great talent master because they can determine a person’s abilities more precisely simply because they’re great at observing and listening. Once they institutionalise these skills, they help shape an organisational doctrine that translates into good employee practices, enriching the company culture.

Going further up, developing talent is a continuous process for the organisation at large, and this process must be a part of the organisational culture. It is not just about short-term goals. Any business organisation that is looking at the future must also plan to get the people with the talent to get it there. Talent masters spend at least a quarter of their time spotting and grooming leadership potential in others; it is closer to 40% in Fortune 500 companies.

Some guiding principles

The guiding principles that the top leadership in a company follow in order to identify and nurture talent are as follows:

Achieve quality through effective delineation of talent: Have a standard mechanism of quantifying performance and assign leadership roles on that basis rather than rough approximations, hunches or personal preferences. Square pegs may fit into round holes at times, but it’s too much of a trial and error process to be used consistently.

Establish an atmosphere of easygoing trust: Developing talent and grooming future leadership needs an atmosphere of trust. You cannot assess your people without proper information about them. It not only helps you know more about the people working in the organisation, but also helps camaraderie. Ask anybody who is part of the top leadership in a company and they will tell you this is the hardest part: encouraging people to get along while keeping the professionalism intact. Ensuring that nothing gets discussed out of turn and that confidentiality is respected takes a careful system of checks and balances that has to be there and yet be unobtrusive.

Be unforgiving, impartial and regular in assessing talent: Your must have a regular system in place that is as robust and comprehensive as any used for finance or operations or sales forecasts.

We are in difficult times right now, but teams that possess that magical something will survive the trial. They will emerge stronger than they were before.

What will your team do in this economy? Will you play not to lose? Will you let events dictate what happens to you? Will you sit back? Will panic set in? Or will you look each other confidently in the eye, take control, count on your leaders, work hard together, trust each other, and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? This decision cannot be postponed.

Mandeya is a an executive coach in human capital development and corporate education, – a certified life coach in leadership and professional development at the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. — lead.inst.dev@gmail.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com.

Top