As a leader, you will never have all the talent you need. No matter how good your company is, no matter how great your employee value proposition, some talented people will work elsewhere. There are only two strategies for acquiring the talent you need, buying it, or building it. Even companies that can afford to purchase expertise do not end up with a monopoly on the most talented people, most of whom aren’t seeking new opportunities. Because talent is a variable for producing results, if you want better results, you have to build talent.
If your company is growing, that growth requires you acquire talent. As your company expands, you require more ability in leadership, management, and all of your key roles. If your company is shrinking, you need the talent to turn things around, recognizing that if you had the ability and the will to improve your situation, you would have already done so. The reason turnaround experts never run out of work is that leaders don’t often replace the people in the critical roles soon enough, some of their reluctance coming from a lack of talent to backfill the position
Every Employee In Your Charge Can Grow and Improve
Every employee in your charge can grow, even if some are not willing to grow, and even more are unaware of their full potential. Your existing employees, in large part, are a potential engine. If you were to help them reach their full potential, you would have a better chance of improving your company, division, department, or team reach its full potential.
When I wrote The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, my first book, I borrowed a framework for Gerhard Gschwandtner. That framework was mindset + skillset + tool kit = success in sales. A reader tweeted me that my math was bad. He suggested (skillset + toolkit) x mindset was more accurate, and he was correct.
As a leader, you build, maintain, and protect your culture. If the mindset is the critical factor, and I believe it is, then there is no reason a non-negotiable cultural value can’t be individual growth or personal and professional development. Those who embrace the idea that they are supposed to grow show promise of being high potential employees, the very kind that grow into critical roles. As people with the mindset grow into new roles, they end up taking on greater responsibility, many ending up in leadership of one form or another.
Skill sets are not far behind mindset in value. The reason to train and develop people is that it improves your overall competency. Imagine a competency score was some score like 91% competency equals excellence, flawless execution, and goal-attainment, and something like 48% equals stagnation—or worse. I am unaware of any tool or framework to measure the overall competency of a team, department, or division, or company, but none is needed since results provide the score. Your scoreboard never lies; it only reports the score.
If you are going to build talent, you must focus on growing the mindsets and skillsets of the people you lead.
The Competitive Advantage of Building Talent
There is a competitive advantage in building talent. First, you don’t have to rely on your ability to recruit and retain existing talent alone as a strategy. Buying talent can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. You can also end with talented people who don’t fit, wasting time and money on people you should never have hired.
Second, and equally important, there is more latent talent available, most of whom will end up in a job where their as-yet-dormant ability will go undiscovered and undeveloped. While it feels like a shortcut to hire someone based on their experience, that is only one factor, and it is not the most important unless you don’t have the willingness or resources to train and develop them. By identifying and hiring people based on their potential, their character traits and attributes, you are acquiring your company’s future competency.
The latent talent you develop becomes your pipeline. Most leaders think of their leadership pipeline as being critical. Leadership, however essential, is not the only competency you need. You need bench strength in every crucial role, whether that be sales, marketing, finance, human resources, risk, or information technology. It helps to think like a sports team. You are developing numbers two, and three, and four in addition to your star player, who, no matter how much you wish it weren’t so, will not be with you forever.
Even though it is easy to believe that you can buy the talent you need, it isn’t true. You can buy the skill you need sometimes. Even when you do, there is no guarantee that the talent you believe you are buying is going to succeed because they did so in a prior role. The ability to move up the next person in line, knowing they have been being trained and developed to take the future role eliminates opportunity costs, the biggest of which may be time, time you can never recover. While the person you hired and developed may fail, the fact that they have experience with the people they are working with and the company makes it more likely they succeed.
If you want better results, build talent. If you are growing, you are going to need more talented people on your team. If you are shrinking, you need the talent to turn things around and start climbing. Like most choices people present as mutually exclusive, you don’t have to choose between buying and building talent. Using both strategies allows you to be opportunistic, buying talent when it makes sense, helping them grow and develop, as well as identifying latent talent and bringing them and helping them gain the competencies they need to move up.
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Filed under: Leadership