Talent management: Managing less, getting more out of your Critical talent?

Today’s post explores an intriguing notion that talent’s contribution may be dissipated because of the nature of management and leadership over the critical talent. dThis post is inspired by an article in 25 August, 2011 Vancouver Sun by Amity Shales titled: “One thing politicians can do to help the markets”, page A13.

This post is not an endorsement of the position explored in the article, rather it is a leadership effectiveness exercise which explores the nature of its practice on talent contribution. Readers of this BLOG know that I view a major strategy for meeting talent needs is through maximizing the contribution of the talent we have access to already.

The article examines how one study discovered that there was a strong (not unity) correlation between market performance and the nature of political activity within Washington (yes this a US centric study). It considered market performance under the following three political scenarios:

  1. Where the President and Congress were on the same page re public policy
  2. Where the political landscape was split (e.g., Republican President and Democratic Congress)
  3. Where the Congress was not in session.

The study looks at market performance from 1897 to 1997. The study noted that market performance was best during session recesses and worst during highly activist political activity (i.e., scenario one above).

This post will consider the implications on leadership practices as they potentially affect talent performance.

Putting this into a talent management  (TM) context we can propose: “When is leadership most effective when it comes to TM (i.e., obtaining maximal contribution)?”

Another way of positing this question is to personalize it: “As a leader, do you feel most useful if you are actively involved with your reports efforts? If not, how do you decide to stay connected?”

I suspect that all of us can relate to these questions from the “lead” or “managed” perspective. There have been times (hopefully many) where we have been well lead and managed. Unfortunately, I suspect there have been numerous times where we haven’t in terms of supporting our making our best contribution.

I suspect that no one answer is going to provide a good outcome. Although I am not an expert in leadership development, I know that many approaches espouse a variety of choices which are most applicable in specific contexts (e.g., report is new to the role, proficient in the role, or expert in the role).

Talent performance is a role design issue I believe. type and quality of leadership/managership is one dimension of this. Within this context there at least two primary leader/manager needs that always need to be met:

  1. There is a need to know that the appropriate things will be done appropriately (priorities, practices and values).
  2. There is a need to know that these things have been done appropriately.

It’s how we satisfy these fundamental needs that is a TM design issue. Henry Mintzberg in his book “The Structuring of Organizations” Prentice -Hall, 1979, suggested that there are five coordinating “mechanisms”:

  1. mutual adjustment
  2. direct supervision
  3. standardization of work
  4. standardization of outputs
  5. standardization of skills
  6. standardization of norms (my addition)

When we consider these six mechanisms, we can discern the quite different types of focuses that leaders and managers would act on. The observable behaviours that  each mechanism would demand so we meet our two leader/manager needs above would be distinct in significant areas.

I have found this typology useful over the years as it has enabled me to advise clients on designing role performance systems.

Would any one coordinating mechanism be applicable in any one role situation? I suspect not. The key is to determine the foundation mechanism and then compliment it with other mechanisms as circumstances suggest.

For example, where roles are acting physically independently and “out of sight” so to speak. The need to “indoctrinate” around norms is paramount. We need to be able to rely that our independent agents will make the right choices for the right reasons, and voluntarily will bring to our attention matters that need to be raised before they act.

For example, where there is a need for process consistency, then standardization around work and outputs is appropriate. Financial and most legal oriented situations warrant this as the notion of justice is a process one and this extends to reporting on such matters as well.

As the the examples above suggest, these coordinating mechanisms are not typically substitutable between the situations.

In conclusion: TM naturally considers performance as a key dimension of success (getting the value from the talent you have access to). Hence, the nature of appropriate leadership/managership is raised as a design issue.



About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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