To develop people, it is important to expose them to unreasonable, demanding, and difficult (but not bully) bosses
For rapid growth of the organization, it is important to have talented people at the right places. However, that is not enough as if talent is not guided and nurtured well, they may not be able to grow and reach to its fullest potential. Developing talent is therefore critical when the organization’s competitive advantage hinges on its people.
Usually, it is believed that training and development – classroom, outbound, on-the-job, mentoring and coaching - could help develop talent. While this is true to a great extent, if the organization is also able to imbibe following pertinent aspects, they will be able to develop talent in a much better manner:
1. Genuine interest by top leadership team: The top leadership team generally has the intention to develop talent it is important to assess how much time they actually spend on developing their talent in reality. Often due to lack of time or other business pressures, the top management team fails to translate the intention into action, and talent development becomes a mere tick-on-the-box. Talent development will happen only when the leadership team spends genuine and dedicated time on people development in a disciplined fashion and review their second and third level on “how they are developing their people”. Thus, the first big question however is ‘how to convert this intention into action?’ Secondly, how much time can the top management spend with their people?
2. Give Feedback: Many of us normally say “I don’t mind taking negative/critical feedback”. But the reality is that it often hurts as well as is difficult to digest despite being descriptive, non-evaluative, and specific. Nevertheless, negative feedback is one of the best tools which can help people improve immensely. Therefore, an important aspect is how do you give feedback, particularly to the people who are bright but egoists, smart but short-tempered, knowledgeable but not good listeners? It is always advisable to start with small but positive feedback as it is well accepted by most of us. This gives an opportunity to see whether the person you have given feedback to, implements the feedback or not. If the person implements the feedback, it clearly indicates a better emotional connects. This helps establish the credibility of the source which becomes the foundation for the person to accept negative feedback in a more positive mind frame.
3. Expose the talent to unreasonable and demanding leaders: To develop talent, it is important to expose them to an unreasonable, demanding, and difficult (but not bully) bosses. And this is done earlier the better as such bosses have the capability to stretch the talent potential and push them to set high standards, challenge one to do better and think differently. Don’t forget pressures are sometimes very discomforting but remember that gold shines better and brighter when put to the test of fire. Having said that, this no way means nice and reasonable bosses do not develop talent. They do, but in a very comforting way, which at times does not teach them how to weather the rough tide.
4. Structured rotation: Imagine you are one of the lucky supervisors of a couple of employees who have performed exceedingly well in your team in the last few years and brought laurels to you as a leader. What happens when these reportees approach you with a proposal to change their roles and move out of your team? Ironically, most of the time good performers are not released or rotated for the reason that they are doing well and their managers are not willing to let them go. Just pause and ponder for a moment – By acting this way, are we really developing these individuals into multifaceted managers? In a business world which is complex, hostile and dynamic, there is a need to prepare leaders who are agile, understand different facets of business and can talk to the customers intelligently about the organization as a whole? Organizations need to focus on putting their talent into new, complex and ambiguous circumstances to help them learn how to handle different situations. It is not enough to just ask your best performer only to continue doing what he/she is best at? They must diversify and be able to handle multiple scenarios. Let’s not forget the fact that the problems of tomorrow may not be addressed by any one specialty; rather, multi-disciplinary approaches encompassing various areas of expertise will prevail over the competition.
5. Educate people on the art of asking right question: How many times have we thought soon after asking a question - “Wish I had framed and asked this question differently?” Obviously, this thought strikes us when we do not get the desired response from the other party. IN my opinion, finding the right answer is difficult unless we have asked the right question. When one is not able to frame the questions appropriately there may be a danger of getting exposed adversely in front of employees, superiors or customers. Therefore, organizations need to help talent learn how to frame and ask the right questions. It is suggested that continuous reading in varied areas, reflection and understanding of the context come handy in framing questions. Sometimes, writing down the question before asking helps articulate it better. This is critical as, remember your question tells a tale about you and your organization.
As finding the right talent becomes ever so critical, organizations will have to become talent magnets as there are very few ways in which they can achieve sustainable competitive advantage. Today, it is difficult to build a great organization without grooming and nurturing talent from within.
Dr. Mrityunjay Srivastava is GM & Head - Transformational Leadership Development initiatives in the Corporate Human Resources Development at Wipro