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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Looking For Talent In The Business? Try The Project Method!

In recent one-to-one discussions with some of the members of my Vistage CEO peer group, as usual there has been a topic that seemed to be everywhere.

In virtually every business and certainly in the larger ones the question of succession for the leadership becomes a vital thread through the whole management of the company.  Selection of members of the team who have leadership qualities is a complex and long term exercise and is one that should be a priority for the leader.


“The primary function of a leader is NOT to create followers but to create more leaders.”

It is almost a truism to suggest that unless new leaders are identified and developed then the future of the business is at stake.

The identification of talent in the business should be a primary objective of any leader.  My Vistage CEO peer group has just had the pleasure of an exceptioal presentation on Talent Management from Elizabeth Mills (www.talentcheck.co.uk) who demonstrated a very valuable and usable model for assessing the talent in the business.

Statistically there will always be someone in the organisation who has different and sometimes exceptional qualities that don’t necessarily show themselves in normal run of activity.

Some years ago in another life I attended a conference of senior executives in the business (a listed manufacturing corporate) and around 60 members of the team attended.  The programme was run by a group of academics from Manchester University and proved to be fascinating.

One of the exercises required us to go into breakout groups (wouldn’t you know) and work on an insoluble problem, in essence to find the least worst solution.  A psychologist was allocated to each group to monitor the results that were said to be an exercise in decision making.

We were told to elect a chairman for the exercise and as each group had a director of the company in every case oddly he was elected to be chairman.

When the psychologists reported to the meeting afterwards it transpired that the exercise had actually been set to identify potential leaders rather than how the decisions were made and the results were the same from each of the breakout groups.

In every instance the director was elected leader and each group promptly ignored them and another member of the group took the lead and ran the session.

Learning from this experience leads me to suggest that using small SWAT teams to work on specific projects would be a great way to uncover prospective leaders.

Every business has small projects that can materially assist operations but all too often they go by the board because there is no champion to ensure that they are set up.  At the same time, membership needs to be selected from as wide a range of levels as is relevant so that as much potential talent as possible is involved.

Make sure that the teams are given B-HAGs (big hairy audacious goals is the clean version) so that people are stretched.

Monitoring these SWAT teams’ results and modus operandi  will soon uncover those people who are potential leaders.

This is not a short term exercise.  It takes time to identify and foster talent and crucially to ensure that they are happy in the business and want to stay.

Elizabeth Mills’ talent model develops the theme and makes succession planning far more likely to be successful.

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