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Monday, March 29, 2010

Talent Management and March Madness

Millions of Americans are in the final stages of watching the NCAA College Basketball Tournament at present – the so called ‘March Madness’. This year, the Final Four includes a number of surprise teams from the original cast of 65. 

There are some broader lessons about talent management in the results so far. For the most part, the teams that have made it to the Final Four or who exceeded expectations earlier in the tournament have top scorers who are more experienced players. 

Take a look at the Final Four. The top three scorers for both Duke and Michigan State are two juniors and a senior. For West Virginia University, it’s a senior and two sophomores. For Butler, it’s a junior and two sophomores. When you look at the stats for the two big ‘Cinderella’s of the tournament, Cornell and Northern Iowa, there are five seniors and one junior making up the top trios of those teams. In contrast, number one overall seed, Kentucky’s top three was made up of two freshmen and a junior. 

The point here is that great teams need time and experience to gel. So, with that in mind, here’s a quick list of talent management lessons that can help keep your team from being “one and done.”

Recruit for the long run:
Do your best to keep your recruiting pipeline active and full of players who bring talent and the capacity for longer term growth.

Build teams, not just stars: It’s great to have some superstars on your team, but they’re going to be even more effective when integrated into a system focused on smooth handoffs and high production.

Keep teaching: Raw talent is just that. Raw. The best teams are those that get consistent coaching and teaching over a longer run period so that skills are refined and taken to the next level.

Coach for resilience: The best teams exhibit grace under pressure and have the resilience to bounce back from deficits. Good coaches nurture that quality by running drills on high pressure situations (think of the need for a game winning inbound pass with 1.8 seconds left) and by reminding experienced teams that they’ve been there before.


Social Media and Leadership

Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead (J-B Warren Bennis Series) by Charlene Li argues that a new organisational structure is required to accommodate and benefit from the culture of sharing that social media has fuelled over the last four years. The information flow we all experience daily can no longer be organised into neat org-chart silos. Instead, it demands a new kind of leadership — one based on letting go of the command-and-control model and embracing openness and relationship building.

Information sharing and dialogue, both internal and external, are key to the openness Li prescribes. But how can leaders be open in a world where they need to be in control? “If you think you are in control, you’re fooling yourself. As soon as you start listening, you realise you’re not in control.” Li proclaimed. “And letting go will yield more and better results.”

Here’s a distilled version of the five steps she laid out for achieving open leadership:

1. Have an open — but not undisciplined — strategy. Align openness with your organisation’s strategic goals. Examine your 2010 goals, pick one in which both openness and social media can have an impact, and start there.  “Every organisation is both open and closed. You must be strategic with what you are open about and not,” Li advises.

2. Understand the upside. Clearly define your goals.  What is the value of an open approach — beyond ROI?  Customer lifetime value, for example, should include the value of new customers that come from referrals, the value that their new insights bring to your product offering and the value of their word-of-mouth support. New customers who come with valuable networks — which you can then tap into — are the most valuable. The more open and engaged you are, the more you’ll be able to get value out of these expanded networks.

3. Find and gather support from others who are realists/optimists. Seek out leaders on your team who are open, rather than the pessimists or worried sceptics who are conditioned to default to a command-and-control mindset. The stakes for embracing openness are high, but the costs of not engaging optimistic allies are also high.

4. Manage risk with ‘sandbox covenants’. Clearly define the outlines and risks of your experiments so your team members feel secure rather than threatened by change. At the same time, be sure to let them know that these experiments in openness are not going to stay small forever.

5. Embrace failure. In same way you have a success file, keep an accessible failure file.  This is an important way to stay authentic and open to the fact that not everything succeeds.  Team members will recognise that all true relationships involve failure and success. 


Leaders Stand for Something

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, consistently emerged from public opinion polls as the most esteemed American woman of the mid-20th century, and one of the most highly regarded and inspirational women in the world. Though born into a world of extraordinary privilege, she was admired by people of all races and classes. One columnist called her "the most influential woman of our times."

Two features stand out in her life: First, how comfortable she appeared to be with herself and, second, how clear and outspoken she was about her values and principles. This clarity was especially striking because many of her beliefs were not widely shared by society of the time.

She did more than speak though. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused in 1939 to let Mariam Anderson, the black contralto, sing in Philadelphia's Constitution Hall because of her race, Roosevelt publicly resigned from that then-august organisation. It was a step that might today seem little more than politically correct, but then it required great courage and created considerable comment.

Values are at the heart of Positive Leadership. As GE CEO, Jeff Immelt says: ‘The future belongs to leaders who want to win without ever losing track of their own values.’

Values are simply what you consider most important in life, as revealed not only by your claims and statements but also, especially, by your decisions and deeds. When we ask people “What are your values?” they sometimes have difficulty answering. But no one has trouble with the questions, “What’s important to you?” or "What are you passionate about?" They’re all the same thing.

Values, or guiding principles and beliefs, can range from the highest ethical and moral aspirations – for freedom and equality and justice, for example – to such basic requirements as safety and comfort. Values can be psychological states, such as closeness and communities, or needs, like the desire to win or excel.

Every time you make a choice – when buying something in a shop or deciding to take a new job or asking someone to be your spouse – you’re reflecting your values, what’s important to you.

So, in fact, all of us have dozens of values, if not more. But when we speak of values here we mean the few that are absolutely core to you, the ones around which you construct your life and make large, life-shaping decisions.

The reason values are critical is that they define you. To know you, to follow you, someone must know what’s important to you. That’s why values reside at the heart of Positive Leadership.

Without knowing a leader's values, those in the leader's group have no way of knowing or predicting what he or she will do. Without a clear set of values, clearly expressed and lived, a leader can only ask others to follow blindly, something most people rightly hesitate to do.

All of us can be inspiring as leaders. Most of us won't have a public persona like Eleanor Roosevelt's. And most of us are unlikely to face a crisis in which we're asked to condone or support racial prejudice. But we will have to face different situations where remaining ourselves, fully authentic, will be difficult, and holding true to who we are and what we believe will make us inspiring to the people who work for us.