Talent Management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs”, Lessons 11 – 14

In my first post in this series ( Talent management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” – the first 3 of 14 ), second post (Talent Management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” Lessons 4 -7 of 14), and third post, Talent Management: “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs”, Lessons 8 – 10 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.

Engage Face-to-Face: This principle is about understanding that we are social entities (albeit at the individual level we are all over the “sociability” map). For Jobs this was a significant lever for enabling innovation and creating new possibilities. The act of engaging with someone who is outside of your immediate work group creates the possibility for new suggestions, new ways of seeing something, etc.

Talent that is directed towards finding solutions to issues that need/or benefit from new approaches often is most successful when looking at the mundane, the normal, the usual, the the habitual, etc. in an alternative fashion. Often this is most easily done with the help of someone who does not share your particular perspective. Serendipity happens our perspective is jolted towards something we hadn’t considered before.

The TM  connection is important and transparent – if you want/need your talent to be creative, you should create the great possibility for serendipity through social interaction. The nature of the interaction is important too, the less structured or formal the better. Formality is useful for purposes other than spurring and enabling creativity.

There is an interesting underlying  dilemma. This approach to enabling creativity can impact operational performance. A PM tenant is “focus” especially at the behavioural level. Organizationally we support this tenant through “siloing” type structures. This works and it is an important PM lever. The issue of disfunction is when we want/need creativity in the role. I suspect we need to ensure two elements take place: engaging with others is one; taking time out from doing operationally productive work is another.

Time away from the job? Isn’t this unproductive? Sure. But it all depends on what you need in the first place. If new insights and ideas are the key then you need to enable the talent role to be effective at it.

Fortunately, we don’t need to be creative all the time. Nor do most roles need to be creative at all (at least very seldom). The role of leadership is to recognize what is important, and needed to enable it.

Know both the big picture and the details: Those of us who took undergraduate philosophy course see the parallel to the mind body dichotomy. Useful PM understands this and ensures it takes place. When any of us works diligently at improving our performance we need to focus on the associated behaviours of great success. However, this is always hard work, what keeps us motivated or on track during this drudgery? It is knowing why and what for.

Anyone who says they are interested only in one or the other, is someone to be leery of. the big picture only person will not see the “road to hell is the many little steps we take”. There are significant ethical and moral implications with people who only care about the big picture.  The details only person will not understand why they ended up where they do. they have no sense of direction and no opportunity to engage in course correction. there are also ethical and moral risks for those who focus only on the details. We do what we do for a reason, if we don’t pay attention to that, then we run the risk of continuing to do something blissfully harmful out of habit and routine.

Combine the humanities with the sciences: There is a parallel to the engage with people principle above. this principle though focuses on how we see the whorl through our understanding of the world. Science is the process for getting better and better at understanding why something works the way it does. This is achieved through the process of refuting our best theories (understandings) of the world. Humanities focuses on what are the possibilities in our lives.

I know I have been inspired by the achievements of others in fields quite unrelated to those I choose to participate in. For those who are humanities oriented (such as I) I suggest that seeing how science oriented people achieve their goals can help you be a better humanist. Vice versa.

The TM and PM related insights are that of staying on track (humanist oriented interest) with how to do it well (science oriented interest). What I have noted is that those who are  beacons of accomplishment typically show intriguing interest in “other side”. They respect that other distinct perspectives are valuable and need to be respected.

Stay hungry, stay foolish: The second part of this principle see3ms to me to be the one that many organizations try to eradicate. Asking someone what “being business like” brings to their mind, I suspect it is not being playful. Organizations do not  seem to have the same difficulty in trying to inspire (sic) hungriness though.

For me, this the last principle is the most important one. It truly speaks to what is needed to enable performance excellence and ongoing success.

In almost all human activity fields I can think of, apart from business, the concept, importance and usefulness of rest is understood and practiced. When I talk to clients and they tell me how busy and booked up they are for the next six months, I am hearing someone who has lost sight of what it takes for them to be and stay high performers. Fatigue is evident and coupled with the contrived sense of urgency to decide and act quickly, safety in action and thought is put risk. If you doubt me, consider this: How do others in your organization interpret and respond when they see someone being seemingly idle? For those roles where the organizations have angst over the incumbents being out of the picture (e.g., on vacation), what is their concept of PM for such roles?

The above paragraph is a heavy one. Why do I say and stress these thoughts? It is because being foolish allows us to see the possible. Being foolish also enables us to not stay so serious all the time. Being foolish permits us to play and take a rest from what we concentrate on. As biological entities we need breaks, rests and changes in what/how/when/ where/and with who.

The stay hungry aspect of this principle is significant in that it speaks to how we sustain and continue to get better when we are at the top of our so call performance “S Curve”, especially for those of us who achieve mastery of our chosen fields. Complacency is the antithesis of continued mastery except in a field that is no longer changing (not sure what these might be). The value of many of the other principles regarding rejuvenation is only further substantiated.



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, Risk & Uncertainty, Strategy, Talent Manangement and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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