Article (July-2016)


Managing Talent - Beyond Organizational Mindset

Dr. Ganesh Shermon

Designation : -   Managing Partner

Organization : -  RiverForest Foundation, Canada


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Leadership Stars of tomorrow
Stars! How exotic does it sound and how banal can it get if not managed effectively? Historically speaking there was an institutional emphasis that made them the stars, for their own organizations, there was an individual effort that prompted them to become stars and there was a drive and desire that could not have been fulfilled for them unless they became and their their institutions became stars. Stars became stars because of people who were willing to make the time and effort to make these people stars. 

Lives and career evolve over time. Track Talenting would be looked upon as the management of career related roles and events that are organizationally based. The organization would assist in a member's career growth, but this growth is ultimately the member's prerogative. The individual's expectation will guide the organization to decide whom to move, when, how and at 'what speed'. But the question we ask today, "Is that enough"?
Case Human Side of Stars
Tracking Talent is the application of the human side of management, a process to identify high potential capabilities. As hard as it is to choose and begin a career, it is even more difficult to become successful in one. Research into careers and into stages of adult life development has been an area of research for many decades.  Much of this research and conceptualization arose out of concurrent psych, analytic theorizing and the so-called human potential movement. Many skills became obsolete in a few years, particularly those that had an academic base. Many people who had followed the dictates of the culture and their parents in their career choice and development by middle age recognized that they really didn't like what they were doing. Others became satiated and bored, and sought new arenas. What is the ideal way to develop leadership? Leadership inevitably requires using power to influence the thoughts and actions of other people. Power in the hands of an individual entails human risks: first, the risk of equating power with the ability to get immediate results; second, the risk of ignoring the many different ways people can legitimately accumulate it power; and third, the risk of losing self-control in the desire for power. "Management consists of the rational assessment of a situation and the systematic selection of goals and purposes (what is to be done?); the systematic development of strategies to achieve these goals; the marshaling of the required resources; the rational design, organization, direction, and control of the activities required to attain the selected purposes; and, finally, the motivating and rewarding of people to do the work. The most serious personnel issue facing business in the 21st century is the virtual certainty that the promotion rate will fall dramatically, and engagement levels will be abysmally low - although the reasons continue to change". 

Flat structures will make jobs, substantive jobs scarce. 
Employee connect and social feedback will make self - awareness more real-time, 360 degrees and virtual. Executives would like to stay on the job longer not because they cannot afford to retire, but because their greed to earn more has not be satiated; at the same time, the number of candidates for their jobs will expand at the highest rate ever.  In this decade, talent shortage will necessitate more rapid acceleration of young executives up the corporate ladder but there is always a stagnation point - the point where the star program managers don't seem to be going away. Only if leaders depart can there be opportunities for younger leaders. To make such a program successful, many high-level executives will have to improve their ability to judge both current performance and future potential of themselves and that of their protégé'. 

Stress is a universal phenomenon, a significant product of the gap between the self-image and the ego ideal. When people overlook the ethical questions associated with the choice of means, they ultimately hurt themselves and their organizations. It is when their careers are on a downward slope that they look at means that were not ethical that they had deployed to stay on top of their job. A good number of executives accept the cliché that success always demands a price and that the price is usually deterioration of private life. This cliché does not always reflect reality. When individuals feel competent and satisfied in their work-not simply contented, but challenged in the right measure by what they are doing-negative spillover does not exist. For an ambitious person, a well-functioning professional life is a necessary though not sufficient condition for a well-functioning private one. And career building is at its best when we can get our executives to bet at their best in both their personal and professional life - that transcendent beyond everyday work. To me the consistent outcome of these findings indicate just one thing - the need to look at life satisfaction as a holistic need with career as only a subset.

Think beyond institutional boundaries
An effective program influences the direction beyond the organization through the selection and development of key people for roles beyond their organizational need. The Star Performers are placed in key positions where they will be tested, challenged, and have the opportunity to prove themselves capable of making decisions affecting the future of the environment in which they are placed or beyond. The program ensures key individuals are not pigeonholed or left to stagnate in unchallenging assignments by a rigid seniority-based promotion system or by less competent, insecure supervisors. ALife - Career Progression Map (LCPM) will chart the course for an individual with necessary developmental inputs at every stage of his organizational life cycle according to the mandatory inputs required. This map will also indicate the number of years a person would take to traverse from one position to the other. With this Life Career Progression Map drawn out the employee will have a clear picture as to what the organization has in store for him and can plan his career accordingly. 

Case for Tracking
In the February 2006 issue of HBSWK, Take Responsibility for Rising Stars say authors Jeffrey M. Cohn, Rakesh Khurana and Laura Reeves. "Many executives, they say, believe that leadership development is a job for an institution, delivered through an HR function. This may be the single biggest misconception they can have. As corporations have broken down work into manageable activities and then consolidated capabilities into areas of expertise, employee-related activities have typically fallen into HR's domain. The prevailing wisdom has been that if an institution and in its place its HR function, took care of those often-intangible "soft" issues, line managers and executives would be free to focus on "hard" business issues and client interaction. 

Your Leaders are your Mirror
But at companies that are good at growing leaders, operating managers, not HR executives, are at the front line of planning and development. In fact, many senior executives now hold their line managers directly responsible for these activities. In this worldview, it is part of the line manager's job to recognize his subordinates' developmental needs, to help them cultivate new skills, and to provide them opportunities for professional development and personal growth. Evolved Leaders must do this even if it means nudging their rising stars into new functional areas or business units. They must mentor emerging leaders, from their own and other departments, passing on important knowledge and providing helpful evaluations and feedback. The operating managers' own evaluations, development plans, and promotions, in turn, depend on how successfully they nurture their subordinates. Line managers are held accountable not only for aiding in the development of individual star managers but also for helping senior executives and HR experts define and create a balanced leadership development system for the entire company. They must tackle questions such as "How will we balance the need to nurture future leaders with the pressures to eliminate redundant activities?" and "How should we encourage burgeoning leaders to take risks and innovate while maintaining our focus on short-term operations and profit goals?" (Firms shouldn't have to forgo their quarterly targets for the sake of developing high-potential managers.) Practical solutions to these and other challenges don't magically appear in HR conference rooms; they come from the line managers". "If line managers are held responsible for executing the talent development initiatives, the board should assume high-level ownership of the overall system. Traditionally, however, most boards have focused on CEO succession, giving short shrift to systematic leadership development. After all, there was little risk of a calamity occurring if the board didn't monitor the leadership pipeline. There was also little chance that the board members would be held personally accountable for the resulting weak talent pool" for they are quite disconnected. 

Case Think Star Team is effectively argued by Martha Lagace
There is no denying that our culture is very enamored of stars and with the idea that extraordinary talent accounts for individuals' extraordinary performance. "The business media likes to treat star knowledge workers, such as top analysts, bankers, lawyers, and CEOs, as if they are star athletes. There is an assumption that these star knowledge workers, like star athletes, actually "own" everything they need to perform at the top level and can take that knowledge and skill anywhere. 

They are treated as free agents who can take their top performance to work for the highest bidder. We were interested in why some star analysts were able to maintain their star rating over this period while others had a harder time doing so. We found that having high-performing colleagues in different locations in the firm-at the team level, at the department level, or national level and in an entirely different department (sales)-had a significant impact on star analysts' ability to maintain their stardom. 

Headhunter's court stars all the time
Yet another bane of our social trap. Stars need to recognize that despite their talent, knowledge, experience, and reputation, what and who they work with really matters for sustaining top performance and personal peace. When considering a career/role related move, it is very important for stars to evaluate the level of support they are receiving from their colleagues in different parts of the organization". Continues, Martha Lagace in 2007, HBSWK, "has an answer for Star Talent. "The Key to Managing Stars? Think Team". She elaborates, "What contributes to an individual's ability to remain a star? To what extent does past star performance predicate future star performance? And to what extent does a key organizational factor-colleague quality-help or hinder the ability to sustain star performance? 

The performance of stars is an important career matter for individuals as well as for managers who want to inspire, nurture, and recruit stars. A new study by Harvard Business School's Boris Groysberg and Linda-Eling Lee on star knowledge workers, specifically security analysts, addresses these questions. As they explain in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, it is true that a star's past performance indicates future performance-but the quality of colleagues in his or her organization also has a significant impact on the ability to maintain the highest quality output. "Stars need to recognize that despite their talent, knowledge, experience, and reputation, who they work with (beyond institutions) really matters for sustaining top performance".

Taking Ownership for Self
Finally, we are also responsible for our own plight. Many of us have never done any serious, constructive personal life planning that looks at our life beyond organizations. But there is now a crying need for organizations to help people identify their potential and build upon it. If effective life planning had been a part of our activities, we would have asked for feedback on ourselves, beyond performance, when that information was not volunteered. Almost everyone at some point thinks of a second career, a third career or a fourth innings. Many people have good reasons. 

For in a 40 or50-yearwork time span (in a 90-year life span) there is much more to do beyond what you can do in one or many organizations. The realities of contemporary organizational life also stimulate a manager to think about a second career: the competition is stiffer every year. Even to the young manager, the accelerating pace of change makes obsolescence a threat. 

Rapid technological changes (which demand higher levels of education and training), more differentiated markets, and unpredictable economic circumstances all make it improbable that a manager will have a life-long career in one field or one organization. When a career helps satisfy the ego ideal, life and work are rewarding and enjoyable. When life goalsdo not help meet these self-demands, work is a curse and so are all other aspects of life. We believe it is possible to create and implement a planned approach in making Stars happen in an organization and can be built to deliver value beyond institutions. By encouraging stars, we do not mean a subtle and not so subtle compromise of the solid performers of the organization but the need to identify and assess people to help build a life of their choice - beyond institutions that contributes to nation building and in turn provide them happiness.