Talent Management

A misguided idea of leadership: could this be the ultimate leadership mistake?

“Imagine for a minute, a workplace where everyone is aligned with business objectives; where everyone understands the value they contribute; an environment where people actively seek to build mutually beneficial relationships across the organization.”  This invocative opening statement to a newsletter caught my attention because that is precisely the type of workplace that I aspire to help create - and would like to see as universal.  But the next sentence struck me like a blow to the solar plexus.

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The Difference between a Manager and a Leader

This week, in asking the question, "Do your leaders coach?" Steve Roesler wrote one of the best blogs I have read for a long time. It is a perfect example of effective coaching in itself; simple, thought-provoking and instructive without being prescriptive.

Leadership 14767404_s 123RFHowever, it  begs the further question: “Who are your leaders?” For, before you can answer, you need to identify who your leaders are. If you agree with Steve that, “Regardless of the job title, if we're responsible for how other people perform then we're responsible for how they learn to perform even better,” you will immediately perceive two additional things:

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Kill the Performance Review

Death_000013987544XSmallPerformance reviews remain in the news. Last week I wrote about Accenture’s abandoning them, but this week came the even more shattering news that GE – the bastion of the “rank and yank” – is also killing annual performance reviews. This seems to be good news for most managers and employees alike. You need, however, to ask, “What precisely is being killed?”

There are two possible interpretations here. One is that it is annual performance reviews that are being ditched and the other that it is performance reviews that are being discarded. You will readily appreciate that there is a significant difference. So let me ask you, if you had to decide this instant, which option would you choose?

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Beyond the Performance Appraisal

Infinity symbol 21580747_sPerhaps you have heard that Accenture is abandoning performance appraisals. (If not, you can read about it here.) Whenever or however you learned this, you likely immediately wondered, “What are they going to replace them with?” For you cannot judge whether this is a good thing or not until you know that. Even then it is not as straightforward as you might think.

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How to Increase Your Return on Training (ROT)

Increasing returns 36682674_sIn my last blog, I made a strong case for the need to increase the Return on Training (ROT) and why it is important for your organisation that you do so. Now I want to give you a recipe that will deliver this and provide a framework for a significant, and sustainable, transformation of your performance.

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How to Unlock Innovation

Cracking innovation iStock_000000136484MediumAre you feeling pressured by the need to innovate? It seems that no matter where we turn today, we are being bombarded by the demand to innovate more. On one hand this may seem highly ironic, when the pace of change is such that many of us are silently screaming for things to slow down so we can catch up. Yet in a way it is hardly surprising because change has been happening so fast that our systems have become obsolete and so it is their very inadequacies and shortcomings that are powering a treadmill that demands more change.

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Don’t let prejudice stifle innovation!

“You don’t achieve by yourself.” Wow! That statement by Ashley Banjo certainly struck a chord. (Sorry!) It simplified, and so brought a whole new light, to something I have said myself.

Ashley BanjoIf, like me, you have no idea of who Ashley Banjo is, let me share my enlightenment. He is the leader of the dance group, “Diversity” who were the 2009 winners of “Britain’s Got Talent.” I encountered Ashley earlier this week when he was a key “conversationalist” at a conference on people, innovation and conversation. I had seen his name on the promotional material and, quite frankly, had simply discounted him as someone to appeal to the younger members of the audience and/or to give the day more diversity. (Sorry again; I don’t seem to be able to avoid the puns today!) I certainly didn’t expect much from his session.

What a mistake! Out of a group of several high-calibre people with awe inspiring lifetime achievements, acclaim and recognition, his insights were the most inspiring of the day.

He described how he, at the age of nineteen, had been persuaded, against his own “better judgment”, to enter the contest. Accordingly he had approached the whole experience as a competition against themselves, aiming simply “to be the best they could possibly be.” This was perhaps just as well, because they soon found they were up against Susan Boyle, and really thought (along with half the country) that they had no chance of winning. Consequently it was a real surprise when Diversity were announced the winners.

But the story doesn’t end there. Six years later Diversity is still going strong. They have repeated their prize of appearing at the Royal Command Performance three times, and here is Ashley, still only 26 years old, but regularly addressing large business audiences. And inspiring them as he talks about messing up (failure) being an inevitable part of success. How many of us have dropped a dance partner in front of the Prime Minister and elite guests at 10 Downing Street?

Ashley boldly states his ambition to keep choreographing and dancing for another 20 years and to “leave a legacy.” That makes him no different to any other self-respecting business executive. And Ashley uses that vision to shape the future. He doesn’t plan in detail, but he ensures everything the group does fits with that long term vision and that "his people" are comfortable with what they are doing. This allows them to travel internationally while still practising 6 hours every day, as well as doing other things, like the TV shows “Got to Dance” and “Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew.”

This last programme arose from Ashley’s conviction that “anyone can dance” and that it is only people’s own beliefs that stop them. He took people – including wheel chair athletes – and proved that they could, simply by helping overcome these beliefs and the ensuing self-doubt.

That is why, for me the statement, “Dream; Believe; Achieve” as a summary of his philosophy was the most profound, and inspiring, takeaway of the day. Truly an impressive young man. (I wish I had been as articulate, aware and self-confident when I was 26!)

But more than just an inspiring conversation, there were deep lessons here about prejudice with several examples of why it needs to be overcome.

  1. If I hadn’t let go my prejudices and listened to what Ashley had to say, I would never have learned what I did.
  2. If Ashley hadn’t listened to others and overcome his prejudice about “Britain’s Got Talent” being just a formulaic popularity contest, he would never have achieved a fraction of the things he has.
  3. If anybody can dance, then how many other prejudices prevent us fulfilling our potential?

So beware prejudice governing you and your actions. Even more importantly, ensure prejudice is not stifling your organisation. Make sure all your people have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve and that they listen and help one another “to be the best they can be.” After all, isn’t that what personal fulfilment really is? And that is the best guarantee of organisational success.   


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, a company created to help larger small to large business organisations to properly value their people and thereby inspire them to optimise their self-worth and so engage them that they transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”

Achieving Greatness: A Not Impossible Goal!

Eiffel Tower - symbolising greatness 37182491_s“One is too small a number to achieve greatness.” I just love this statement by Todd Duncan that I came across this week. How much more powerful it is than my more prosaic, “No individual achieves success solely through their own efforts.” Yet whether you prefer the poetic or the prosaic, the words highlight an important, fundamental truth.

For most of us “greatness” may just seem an elusive dream. But what if you substitute the word ‘success’ for ‘greatness’? After all, greatness is ultimately only extreme success.

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Why Valuing Employees Makes Sound Business Sense

They say you should never answer a question with a question. Yet, sometimes, there is no better way of providing an answer. You are likely familiar with the apocryphal story of the executive who asked, “What if I train my employees and they just leave?” And, who apparently received the answer, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

What a classic riposte. Oh to have the same wisdom and wit! I increasingly feel that is the perfect way to answer a question I am often asked. So from now on when people ask me, “What happens when I value my employees?” I am going to respond by saying. “I don’t know! But what happens when you don’t?”

The great management paradox is that it is common for executives to say “Our people are our greatest asset!” Hell some might even sincerely mean it! Yet convention insists that we account for, manage and treat employees solely as costs. How then can you expect your employees to be engaged if the subliminal message they keep getting is that they don’t really matter?

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Powering Business Success: The Sustainable Model

In my last blog I shared how I would adapt John Spence’s business success formula, building on its fundamentally people-centric essence. I promised then that I would show you how you could put it into practice more easily. So now it is time for me to keep my promise and do just that.

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