“Why Potential Now Trumps Brains, Experience, And Competencies”
A Harvard Business Review article by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz
Talent is the most important asset in the world today. Not capital, not technology. TALENT.
Talent is an art, a vocation, a full time priority as it needs to be identified, attracted, developed and retained. A competitive organisation acts on each front every day! Why? Because the best clients follow the best talent. Because talent isn’t only the most important resource, it’s also the scarcest one!
Lucky for us Claudio Fernandez-Araoz brilliantly lays out the blueprint for talent spotting in his 2014 HBR article. Three years has done nothing more than accentuate the critical need to learn everything about talent.
Companies may not be feeling pain today, but in five or 10 years, as people retire or move on, where will the next generation of leaders come from? Your organization will be looking for potential in what will soon be one of the toughest employment markets in history, for employers not job seekers.
Go for potential
Consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels, from junior management to the C-suite and the board. As business becomes more volatile and complex, and the global market for top professionals gets tighter, organizations and their leaders must transition to a new era of talent spotting, one in which our evaluation of one another are based not on brawn, brains, experience, or competencies, but on potential.
The question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones. Can you adjust to the massive changes? Do you have the ability to adapt and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments?
Montreal Canadiens, GM Marc Bergevin withVP of player personnel, director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins.
What better laboratory for talent spotting than profesionnal sports?
Instead of asking "are you curious?" Look for signs that the person believes in self-improvement, truly enjoys learning, and is able to recalibrate after missteps. Always ask for concrete examples. Look for details in the due-diligence, indicators such as:
-Fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals;
-A penchant for seeking out new experiences and knowledge;
-A knack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people;
-The willingness to fight for difficult goals despite challenges and to bounce back from adversity;
-Thriving to always go out of your way to meet customers, clients, and workers at all levels, and to listen to voices that usually go unheard.
Everything is scouting
Companies that emphasize the right kind of hiring vastly improve their odds. Amazon as hundreds of dedicated internal recruiters, great training programs in assessment and even a legion of certified "bar raisers": skilled evaluators who hold full-time jobs in a range of departments but are also empowered to participate in assessing and vetoing candidates for other areas.
“Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of our success.” Jeff Bezos
Look within your ranks
Be proudest of the improved quality of the leaders rising through the company's ranks. The capacity to build and retain great teams is the key to any leader's or organization's success.
Most of us are energized by three fundamental things: autonomy, the freedom to direct our lives; mastery, our craving to excel; and purpose, the yearning for our work to serve something larger than ourselves.
Departures are caused by bad bosses, limited support, and lack of opportunities for growth.
Pay your stars fairly, ideally above the average but also give them autonomy in four "T" dimensions: task, what they do; time, when they do it; team, whom they do it with; and technique, how they do it. Help them toward mastery by setting difficult but attainable challenges and eliminating distractions. And engage them in a greater team, organizational, or societal goal.
Go for the long run
Your final job is to make sure your stars live up to the high potential you've spotted in them by offering development opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones. Constantly striving to find the optimal level of discomfort in the next role or project, because that's where the most learning happens. Well-rounded, values-focused leaders who see the world through a wide-angle lens, and the right stretch assignments are what helps people get there.
Those that learn how to spot potential, effectively retain people who have it, and create development programs to help the best get better, the situation will instead offer an extraordinary opportunity.
Talent is not an abstract idea. Talent is your team. You can’t reach your potential without a team. If life lessons are also pertinent for business than we all know finding THAT partner is a hell of a challenge! Spot talent, build a team and you have the foundations of an empire!
By Jean-Philippe Gagnon