Talent Management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs”, Lessons 8 – 10 of 14

In my first post in this series ( Talent management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” – the first 3 of 14 ) and second (Talent Management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” Lessons 4 -7 of 14) I explored how the reported leaderships lessons (I call them principles) relate to Talent Management (TM) and Performance Management (PM). In this post we will continue this examination with the next three principles.

Again, I will define my two key concepts:

TM –  Continuously meeting our timely access and use of talent needs in highly effective business driven ways.

PM – The process for leveraging the value of the talent you have access to by enabling excellence to materialize and be sustained.

Impute: This is the notion that appearances are important. Jobs is purported ago say that “…that people do judge a book by its cover”.  How something is presented and packaged is important.

My own experiences would affirm this. When I was in retail, I found that purchase decisions (mine included) were in part influenced by how a garment or shoe was displayed. Also I have found that when trying to choose a wine I have not tried before, labelling will play a part (as well as price point and advice of store staff). When faced with something new or novel to our experiences we will look to what can arguably be considered as secondary or tertiary concerns.

But this goes deeper too, for non-consumable items it is the ongoing interaction with the item that matters. I have saved a few dollars and and regretted the durability, functionality, and facility of use compromises. We know Apple has a standard around ease of use and predictable reliability in its product offerings.

What makes something easy? it is part logical organizing and arraying of the components we interact with. Are they easy to make use of? Are they simple to find? Do they simply do the desired job? But there is a second component, and this the sense of elegance and/or aesthetics. Great products and services are nice, even a  joy to use.

I find the Impute principle one that most easily relates to the concerns of PM.

Consider someone you know who is a virtuoso in their job, role or calling. Not only do they bring in the numbers but they also do it with style and élan. In fact they often make it seem effortless. Sometimes those who do not understand what it takes to do “good” performance think that these virtuoso performers are not in fact doing very much. these are judges who put a performance bonus point on those who sweat or struggle in performing. Yet I would suggest that the performance stars in your organization achieve remarkable results with a sense of aplomb.

My lesson in lie from this is that I notice facility in performance as much as I do cold performance metrics. I would argue that there is always a sense of visible artistry exhibited by the best in their craft, trade, profession, calling, whatever.

Push for Perfection: This is the antithesis of the “good enough to get by” principle. Those who take pride in their “being practical” will struggle with this principle because it will always appear like an additional effort waste.

The PM linkage is clear. The business strategy and associated culture and values are also clear: The organization takes visceral pride in what it offers to its customers. The notion of over delivery on overt and implied promises is clear. Sometimes this means not doing/promising something because in your mind you know you don’t have it right yet.

Regarding TM, the linkage is one of ensuring you totally respect the talent you have access to by enabling it to accomplish its best. This means who you choose in critical roles  can be star performers. This means that the roles you place them in channel and positively lever their abilities. this means the encompassing organization has a discipline about not “frittering away” this star performing capacity.

From a business process perspective this means that there are opportunities to ensure that what the ace performers work on has a chance to be reflected upon before it goes out the door. The Impute principle suggests that “nuance” is a key design element. Nuance is something that I have found is best examined during times where incessant “get it out the door” pressures are momentarily suspended. Also, it is sometimes just asking ourselves: “Is the best we can do for our customers’ with what we have here today?”

My definition of TM embodies the insight that much of our TM issues is based upon how we use our precious talent. We need more because we fail to properly use what we have access to. What a shame! In fact, shame on us for permitting it!

Tolerate only “A” Players: For Jobs this was as much about being direct and honest about others efforts and accomplishments as it was about who he recruited, contracted with, outsourced to, partnered with, etc. The difficulty that many people apparently had with Jobs was his brusqueness, rudeness even abusive behaviour.

I am not particularly fond of abusive people, although if I understand where their motive lies (i.e., disappointment with what has been achieved versus it’s about you as a person) I can react more moderately. I see this as a skill area (i.e., learnable) where a leader can exhort for more with passion, frustration, concern, etc. Done well it helps, done clumsily, it is is damaging.

The TM and PM issue that I want to focus on is the choice to have only A players in our organizations. I have two perspectives on this: first, for our critical roles I agree, we should only access and make best of the highest calibre talent we can. Second for all other roles “B” level players are more than good enough. Why?

Critical roles I define as those that have a leveraging impact on adjacent roles. Stars in  critical roles not only delivers the goodies for their role but elevate the performance of those around them. So it logically, operationally and strategically makes sense to ensure you access the best you can find for these roles.

For all other roles, the opportunity for a star to lever the performance of others is more limited, so ensuring that you have good players in them is appropriate.

But remember, a star is a star because of the context they are placed in. We sometimes painfully discover this when we successfully recruit another organization’s star and subsequently find that they fail to achieve at the same high levels within our organization. The blame is our organization and the accountability is with the leadership that permitted it (and tolerated it) in the first place. Performance at any level is always contextual, One of the great insights from the business improvement efforts is that 80 – 85% of waste/variability/failure is caused by the processes themselves (the other 15 – 20% is person centric).

In the next post we will wrap up this TM and PM perspective examination of Steve Jobs’ leadership lessons.




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.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Decison Making, Performance Management, Strategy, Talent Manangement, Values and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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