Due to the full-time focus on completing my book, this website unfortunately suffered from lack of updates. I'm playing catch up now, so this post will cover some miscellaneous tweets from February that didn't require additional commentary from me. These will not be searchable by categories, but are still worthy of exploring if there is anything of interest to you. Click away! Links are embedded.
I’ve always wondered why talent management and succession planning ended with the layer beneath the top leadership roles. Once people have what they believe to be a sufficient number of names to fill in for those top slots, the pipeline is declared robust and people congratulate themselves on a job well done. No one ever thinks about talent management and development for the C-suite, which includes the CEO and their direct reports. Many organizations operate this way. Ever notice how there are fewer development opportunities as one moves up the ladder? Despite the terminology, leadership development is often reserved for the up and comers. Lack of leadership development for the leaders themselves is yet another reason why it’s lonely at the top. Leaders play into this as well. They think they’ve made it. It’s always the deeply flawed ones that act like they have nothing more to learn—and there are lots of them.
Once a leader is in place, the assumption is that there are 3 three options left: ouster, retirement, or a better role at another company. I propose a fourth option—the leader’s next role at the right time. Let me explain. If the ultimate aim of “good” talent management is about putting the right person in the right role in the right environment, why not extend that to the top leadership roles? You see, just like all other talent, leaders have their strengths. It’s about matching that talent with the right opportunities. Those opportunities are created by availability of the role combined with particular business needs. Presumably, companies intend to put the right leader in place to fulfill those needs at that point in time. If you need someone to build up a business, you get someone who is good at that. You wouldn’t want someone who is good at maintaining things. Both types can be good leaders, but only in the right environment suited to their capabilities. In other words, there’s a leader for every season. This is how CEOs have built reputations on Wall Street around certain archetypes—i.e. those that specialize in turnaround, strategy, operations, new business, pleasing shareholders, etc. There are very few chiefs in the executive suites known for being “all arounds”. These leaders for all seasons are a rare breed. There should be more of them, hence the need to manage and develop talent at the top.
Given the speed and fluctuations of business, needs change. Once a particular leader has fulfilled the set of previous needs and new needs arise, it is time to look at whether another leader with different experience and strengths is required. Very few organizations manage this well. The recent announcements of two founding CEOs stepping aside for the growth of their business are welcome examples where succession planning and a leader’s self-awareness can work together. It helps organizations foster the maturity of their business, realize their strategies, and manage change. Think about how painful the alternative is: leaders that won’t let go, political upheaval with boards, businesses suffering under the wrong leadership, bad PR, etc.
If I had my druthers, here is how talent management at the top would happen:
1. There should be an emphasis on the right person, in the right job, in the right environment all the way to the top. It’s not about when someone is due for that promotion or appointment, but rather whether they are ready to fulfill the role in the context of the current business needs.
2. Organizations should focus on building more all around leaders, or leaders for all seasons. That means putting the right leader for the season in place and managing their development to expose them to their growth areas. They might lead in one area, but be a learner in another. Those that want to stick with their specialty or passion as leaders for one season should plan for the next role, internally or externally. In all cases, an organization should plan ahead with their leaders what markers or achievements will indicate readiness to move on. While we’re at it, why don’t we extend this to the boards? Make board members better board members for time that they are there, partner them with the C-suite to manage true leadership development and succession planning.
Remember those 3 other options? They still exist. The complexities of leading companies can’t be minimized. However, this fourth option allows organizations to plan for inevitable change more purposefully, and with less drama. It is my belief that talent management of the C-suite is a green field opportunity, primed for experience design à la Design of Work Experience (DOWE) and additional research.
Reaching the pinnacle of one’s career should be recognized. It is truly an achievement to make it to the C-suite. It is this outsider’s opinion that we should treat these people not as deities or despots to depose, but as what they truly are: top talent.
The challenge with all iteration, regardless of topic or application, is persistence. This doesn't come easy to anyone, me included. I do it because I know it is a key differentiator--it increases the chances of success. The majority of everyone else will opt out early. I suppose that's why marketing calls it "satisficing" since requires some sort of sacrifice on one's part. Choose your poison: either sacrifice your comfort level, or sacrifice the potential result. I choose the former in favor of (hopefully) better results. Will you join me?
This year's Super Bowl was fun to watch, even for me. My spouse called it the best...game...ever! What will live in infamy was that last call made by Pete Carroll, the Seahawk's coach. Everyone was talking about it. Those that gave him a fair shake understood why he made the call he made, but it was likely that other outcomes were not considered possibilities. That came back to bite them big time.
When it comes to purposeful work cultures, environments, and experiences, the design should be considered with not only the context in mind, but also the possible outcomes that might make a difference. You could have the best design in the world, but if the implementation stinks and sustainability can't be achieved with people, then you have a lot of wasted time and lost potential. That is why change management is a key part of the DOWE model and process. An organization's transformation brings the design to life.
That all being said, you can't anticipate for everything. There will be failures. We should live in workplaces (and societies) that allow for failure as learning opportunities to be celebrated. Let's let up on Mr. Carroll here--any one of us could be in the same type of situation, even if we aren't NFL coaches at the Super Bowl. He's a smart man who's strategy didn't work as planned. Haven't we all been there?
2/5/15 Update: Matt Lauer's interview with Pete Carroll happened to be on when I ate my breakfast this morning. Here are some sound bytes I jotted down quickly to illustrate:
"I'm an optimistic person...it's the way I'm wired."
My reaction: Good for you Pete Carroll, and I love that it is what drives your decisions and your philosophy after the fact.
"...never make a call thinking it's gonna go bad." My reaction: Thanks for confirming my suspicion, but I encourage that optimism with a healthy dose of planning for other outcomes. Even if he reaches the same decision again and has the same outcome, he has the right attitude about being positive.
It wasn't a bad call, "it was the worst result of a call" My reaction: This is the piece that I refer to above--sometimes you can't anticipate for everything. And sometimes it is the worst case scenario that happens. The test is what we do thereafter.
A place to share interesting concepts that will inspire, spread, and/or apply new ideas. This page is dedicated to sharing my twitter feed, announcements, and blog posts.