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Challenging Talent

Some people are very good at putting talented people into boxes. As much as you might like or hate that concept it can be useful in many different ways.

Some people are very good at seeing how talented people could be put into “boxes” you hadn’t even imagined. Seeing differently tests people differently which is often a really good thing.

Some people don’t believe talented people need to be put into boxes of any sort. Giving agency to people to drive their own talent journeys makes a lot of sense if you can handle what that means.

Three outlooks on talent all influenced by perspectives on people, performance and potential.

So which do we see in most talent development practices?

Which requires more intimate knowledge and first hand observation of people at work?

Which mindset or approach would be transformative in your organisation?

My sense is that the majority of organisations support and practice a more linear talent perspective. It seems logical. It probably seems to fit brilliantly with performance and recognition systems. It may even use a 9-box model. It all has validity to a logical mind though it clearly has its constraints, deliberately so. The trouble is it doesn’t really facilitate that creative, tangential perspective. It perhaps even obscures through process good talent thinking for a wide variety of people. It can create systemic inevitabilities, even if you don’t think it is.

Yet the tangential perspective helps create directional possibilities to mitigate those systemic inevitabilities. For example how the Sales VP in Sweden might become a great Head of Client Service in the UK rather than a more senior Sales person in Scandinavia. A different kind of seeing. Something additive to the more linear, logical approach. Potentially transformative, creative, tangential perspectives.

The trouble is it requires the mindset, the interest, the position of influence and, perhaps more than anything, intimate knowledge and first hand observation of people at work across the system. This isn’t driven by spreadsheets or assessment centres. It’s driven by a curious interest in what others could do – that seen and sensed potential. An ability to connect dots that are in plain sight but not seen by others.

It strikes me that this is a capacity that we truly want in leaders and leadership teams. To develop it just in the Talent function would seem to be shortsighted.

So are we developing that talent; that capacity?

I’m not at all convinced that we are… More than that, if we want to give agency to people to drive their own talent journeys – think of the cost savings & value creation potential there – then that agency has to be supported, developed and mentored by leadership. I don’t think Talent functions really want leaders to abdicate that role to them, do they? That’s a talent challenge for leaders.

The question really is how are you developing the talent of your leaders and leadership teams to work even better with talent across your organisation?


3 thoughts on “Challenging Talent

  1. Great post David! I’m interested to hear if you believe that managing talent for an organisation can be anything but linear in practice, I’m yet to witness this. How do you think HR can help facilitate this ‘blue sky thinking’? Pause for thought on a chilly Monday morning indeed. Best wishes, Natalie

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by nharris1612 | October 3, 2016, 8:57 AM
    • So what if we facilitated talent not just managed “it”? We can incorporate non-linear approaches and appreciate that linear has some value also. The key is to explore wider potential benefits to a more expansive approach. Most people actually get this innately. What could it create? What are the perceived barriers?

      Shout if you need more specific help!

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by David Goddin | October 3, 2016, 10:46 AM


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