Talent Management: The Need to Learn About Uncertainty & Risk, A Life and Leadership Core Competency

Today’s post is inspired by Joe O’Connor article in the National Post (2 June, 2012 page A6) titled “The sacrifice of Captain Zero”. It is a story of how a teacher will likely lose his job because he gives zeros to students who do not complete their class assignments. What I appreciate about this article is the irony it notes that this policy (no zero’s) flies in the face of life’s experiences – don’t perform, suffer consequences (just try and not pay your taxes in nearly all jurisdictions).

Readers of this post know I having been exploring the notion of uncertainty and risk (U&R) from an OD perspective. My insight from this article is that we need to teach people, especially those in leadership roles, how to handle U&R in their lives (personally and professionally) much more systematically and effectively.

Consider: an investor who literally gambles away a bank’s (and all bank investors’) monies on a series  of risky type investments. Consequences? For him possibly prison and censure. For the bank, perhaps bankruptcy. For those whose savings he gambled? Ruin!

Consider: a leader/manager who makes strategy choices that result in the destruction of shareholder value and the livelihoods of many people who had no say in the matter. Consequences? For him/her, reputation (maybe), a golden parachute (quite likely). For shareholders, employees, suppliers and customers? Maybe devastating implications!

We live in a U&R like universe. This means we necessarily make choices and act upon them without full appreciation of what we will reap (specifically the unintended consequences). We get unintended consequences because we can unwittingly expose ourselves to events that when they occur will have significant impacts on us and others.

Clearly a school that provides no consequences for failing to perform reasonable assignments is setting up its students to more harsh lessons later on in life (because of the subsequent “surprise” of receiving consequences).

For those of us in OD, how do we equip current and future leaders to handle U&R in their responsible roles? Do our offerings provide any means for helping leaders discern between degrees of U&R exposure and how to balance the consequences, especially on others who are exposed to being severely victimized? The fact is, dealing with U&R as a leader involves operational (How to discern, assess, weigh and make balanced choices.) and an ethical implications (What obligation do I owe to those who are exposed to my choices as a leader?).

For those in roles such as making investments, where they can make and act on a series of choices that if they go “south” can result in devastating implications. Clearly there are important and imperative ethical issues here. Not only for those who engage in these activities, but again the leadership who permits overtly or tacitly) such behaviour. For example, do the leaders understand that we should not recruit sociopaths and addictive oriented (especially gambling) people into such roles? Do they not also know how to ensure due diligence for their depositors savings and impacts on their lives if “bad things” happen?

Dealing with U&R is a learnable competency. I would suggest that all forms of education need to help their students to hone this competency. I would argue that the official that supports “no zero” policy is jeopardizing the future well being of the students themselves, but, also everyone else whose wellbeing is entrusted to the ethical and skilled behaviour of these “graduates”.

Thanks a lot to those (in education in all its forms) who fail in helping their charges to better develop their U&R coping competency. Yes this is a statement of bitter sarcasm.


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 Decison Making, Performance Management, Risk & Uncertainty, Strategy, Talent Manangement, Values and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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