Ready Now! Does Succession Planning Backfire?

I get variations of this question a lot: if you focus on leadership and career development for your team, doesn’t this backfire for you as a leader?

Won’t that just cause people to leave for better opportunities?

Well yes, indeed it might.

When you have the opportunity to work with excellent people, they do great things, and they get great opportunities.

Sometimes these opportunities are about startingnew ventures or joining new groups. Sometimes they are about a chance to give back to the community. And sometimes they areopportunities to advance their career.

I would be misleading you if I were to say this is easy. It’s not, it’s very hard. But, in life, the hard right things are often the ones that pay off in the end.

You see, for each person in your team that leaves for a great opportunity, there is an even larger group watching. They are watching to see how those opportunities might apply to them.

We all know that developing great teams is not a once-in-a-career opportunity. It is an opportunity available to each of us every day.

There is greatness all around us waiting to be discovered and waiting to be given the opportunity to flourish. So, while change is hard for everyone and opportunity can be bittersweet, rest assured that succession planning only backfires if you define your career in the very short term.

When you set the leadership development process in motion, you create the opportunity for talent to impact you in bigger ways .

So keep building your leadership pipeline and a rich professional network, and open yourself up to making talent mobility part of your brand.

It’s worth it, I promise.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Your Job is to Make Your Boss Look Good

I’ve always believed that my job was to make my boss look good (but, not to make his/her life easy 😉 ).

My team must believe this as well, as they are always all over this. In my job there is an enormous amount of metrics to hit. You can imagine, doing a large and ambitious project makes scorecards important.

Being a data company of tech geeks makes metrics a bit promiscuous.

My team is so outstanding that I must confess, I rarely check my metrics. I know they are great because my team is great, and they will tell me if there is an issue I should know about.

Making my boss look good is a bit more complex than meeting metrics. For him, that’s table stakes. What makes my boss look good is delivering a set of products that make people take notice. Products that deliver measurable business value. Products that inspireamaze, and highlight the unique value of his organization.

So, this is what my peers and I do — we focus on getting it right and making it happen.

Some days this lofty goal seems completely out of reach. Other days we surprise ourselves with our own success. And then there are days when we achieve a grand slam — an opportunity to make not just a boss but their boss and their boss look good. Those days are great days. Those are the days you are reminded that it was worth the fight.

Those are the days that will pay off in much bigger ways than looking good yourself.

I wish you all the joy that comes from making someone important to you look good. It rocks!

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps. 

Are You Prepared to Work for Your Peer?

I have been in management long enough to have seen a common story play out several times, it goes something like this. 

There is a strong team. Each has their own unique strengths, but overall, they all do good work.

The leader departs.

And someone has to be given the lead role. Multiple people want to be considered. Some are more qualified than others. Each think they are the most qualified.

One is chosen. The rest are upset. 

The most common next outcome is that eventually everyone gets over it and moves on.


No one forgets.

Especially the person who was picked to be the leader. That person went from having a peer they could trust, to feeling like the need to watch their back.

So I ask you…

At what point did the person who was not picked reallylose something?

I would offer to you that the real loss was not the missed opportunity but the future opportunities that were also lost. Instead of focusing energy to cement a future promotion, they showed everyone that they were a sore loser.

When you find yourself not chosen, remember that you are being watched. And in that moment, you can show the best or the worst of your authentic self. While you cannot control the outcome of every opportunity, you can certainly stop the opportunity flow by making bad choices.

Don’t let this happen to you. Be the master of your own career and decide that while you cannot control every career outcome, you can control your energy and your attitude.

A bad attitude is never career enhancing – avoid that at all costs.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

The Leadership Cop-out, the Employee Hot Potato

Dan was talking this week about how real leaders do the right thing, even (or especially) when it means that you have to let a poor performer go. You all know that I’m a big believer in job fit. Finding a role that leverages your strengths is critical for success. For some, finding the right role can be a process of trial and error, using our failures to course correct is a part of personal growth. Sometimes coaching and role adjustment can turn a lack-luster performer into a star. But we all know that there are times when the problem is not just job fit, it is job attitude.

When an individual has a negative attitude you are dealing with a cancer that impacts the whole team. It is the job of the manager to resolve the situation quickly and fairly. Too often, weak managers resolve their situation by creating an employee hot potato. These disgruntled employees find themselves sharing (and often compounding) their negative attitudes across multiple groups as they bounce from manager to manager, each too weak to take action.

Moving performance problems around the organization is one of the worst kinds of management cop-outs. It is not honest for the individual, and it is not good for the company. It is not leadership, it’s cowardly.

I am well aware that the process of resolving performance problems takes considered thought and diligence. Even when attempting to do the right thing, it is often not black and white. We all want to make sure we have given enough chances to the employee and have done our best to coach them to improvement. I would not want anyone to take this process lightly. I would just like to encourage you all to make sure you are honest with yourselves that you are not perpetuating performance problems in other groups because you are too lazy to deal with them yourself.

If you are not sure, get help from your HR team. HR professionals can support you through the tough job of coaching the team member to acceptable performance or terminating. It is the role of HR to make sure that the process is fair for the employee, the impacted team, and the company.

Repeat after me, no more employee hot potatoes!


This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Why Are We Smarter About Puppies Than Humans?

While before I was talking about feedback in general, today I want to talk specifically about positive feedback and the merits of praise. 

Just coming back from The Conference Board’s Employee Engagement and Retention Conference last week, I was struck by just how far we have to go in this area. One point that summed it up for me was the following set of questions and responses.

When asked, “do you need encouragement to do your best at work?”

20% replied yes. 

When asked, “when you get encouragement, does it motivate you to do your best?”

90% replied yes.

We all read this and think “of course,” we know this. So I ask you, when was the last time you said thanks?

Does your team make it a standard practice to recognize the contributions in an authentic and timely way? Why do we understand so easily when training puppies that rewarding good behavior causes them to behave, but with people we focus on “constructive feedback” (and maybe once a year?!) and expect that to yield results.

I would encourage you to consider making a serious [focused] effort to say thank you more often. Not only will it help someone be motivated to continue to do their best, it might also help you to always look on the bright side of life.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.  

Kids These Days

There has been a lot of talk in the industry about Millennials and how they impact a talent strategy. Given the age demographic (newly joining the workforce), it is natural that the segment that has been giving this the most attention is the Recruiting process. Most recruiters today are actively taking advantage of new technologies and social norms to increase their access to a larger (and hopefully more qualified) candidate pool. This is all goodness.

Today, I’d like to suggest that there is another, equally important part of the talent “wheel” that really must stand up and take notice. This is the Learning group. As some of you probably know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. But like anything that you are close to, I have also been guilty of wanting the answer to be in providing more methods of delivery vs. really needing to re-think the whole business strategy. I am now convinced that starting with the “delivery will save us” premise, is a recipe to being totally irrelevant within your HR Business strategy in the next 5-10 years.

Watching this video about university learning is a good start to understanding what is different today in how people learn. I personally believe that this is not just a GenY issue. Even our news channels, which have an over-30 demographic, feel the need to provide an increasingly large volume of content at a more rapid pace. The world is expecting information faster. Sure, younger generations are quicker to adapt to this kind of change, but that does not mean that it is only the under-30 crowd that is expecting more today than they have in the past.

How people “learn” and how they are “trained” are often not well aligned in most organizations today. I believe this problem is growing and that we need to start to think about this in the context of a “Learning strategy” vs. just a Millennial problem. To that end, I’ve decided to try and articulate what I think is needed for an impactful Learning strategy. I’m sure I’ve missed some things, so please feel free to sound off in the comments with additional ideas.

Meg’s suggestions for a Next-Generation Learning strategy

  • Organizational Development and Training organizations need a tighter alignment than the loose “competency gap” relationship they have today. Companies need to be able to drive the need for learning to individuals based on a wide-variety of “triggers.” Competencies are certainly one, but what about things like missed objectives, long-term career plans, poor customer satisfaction surveys, or even manager or individual observations?
  • Learning groups need to be comfortable expanding their influence and taking an active role in the dreaded worlds of knowledge management, informal land experiential learning. To do this, we must realize that we need a seamless transition for people between formal and informal learning. Not everything is going to be managed by the catalog and not everything can have the same level of formal monitoring as compliance training. 
  • Take advantage of “wisdom of the crowds” and avoid the tendency to have everything centrally managed. Tier your programs so that you can get comfortable with the volume of information that is going to naturally come along with the idea of opening up to the unwashed masses. Don’t run away from these concepts just because they are complex. 
  • Recognize that key learning today is not just coming from static channels, it is also coming from people. Having a better understanding about what human assets you have that can help your organization learning is key. Who knows what and who is willing to share what they know is going to be one of the key elements to understand. 
  • Begin to think about incentive and tracking programs for learning. What is mission critical for your business? What learning is needed to make that happen? How do you drive that learning to the individuals? How do you help individuals get real value from your learning programs so that they continue to participate?  Understanding individual incentives is key.
  • Be open to the idea that the learning department will turn into a facilitator of learning vs. the source of learning in the organization. 

It is my prediction that learning departments will either embrace this new world and find their place in it, or they will become a third appendage with only compliance as their real value proposition. 

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

If You Love Someone, Set Them Free

Yes, the topic today is “Talent Mobility.” 

But Meg, you say, Mark already covered this topic a few weeks ago. Yes, I know he did, but I’ve made a career out of repeating what Mark has to say, I don’t see why I should stop doing that now that I have a blog goal of an entry every week

So the question is, how do managers deal with the conflicting priorities of wanting to succeed against their own objectives vs. the goals of their team members for career development? Especially when the next career progression for an individual is not an opportunity that the manager has on their team? How does an HR group encourage the idea of individual career development if they have managers who are incented to hoard talent? 

One of the first problems to address is how you incent your managers. If their incentives are exclusively project based and not based on growing their people you are probably going to have limited success in driving the kind of employee engagement that we have been talking about here at TalentedApps.

Another key factor will be showing talent mobility as a core value. Are those managers who develop and share talent known in your organization? Does your organization see these managers as more valuable? They should. Managers who are able to develop and share talent are going to provide more long-term value to your company than those managers who are only concerned with their own personal objectives. In addition, those managers who are good at spreading talent across your organization are probably those managers who have a more effective network in the organization, certainly a more loyal one.

So, as you look to set your own objectives this January think about how putting opportunities for those who work for you ahead of opportunities for yourself. Not only does the golden rule tell you to do this, but in the end, you and your company will benefit more as a result. 

Also, consider thanking someone who was influential in your own career by helping you achieve your own career goals, especially when that involved being open to the idea of you working somewhere else if that was necessary. To that end, I would like to thank my last two bosses (you know who you are and are probably thrilled to have me mention you publicly) who have made personal sacrifices to help me grow professionally. This, in addition to having to put up with me as an employee, certainly disserves a good karmic return. 

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

The Value of Teams

Back in school (go Cats), it was all the rage in the business program to have the majority of our work be team-based. The thinking being that in a work environment it is really more about teams than individuals. 

Lately, I’ve been reading and thinking about teams and Talent Management. Of course, this has taken me all over the place a bit, but I’ll do my best to make a point vs. forcing you all to wander all over the place like I have been. 

One place I ended up was an article on emotional intelligence of teams. To summarize, it’s not just important for individuals to have emotional intelligence, it’s also useful for teams (duh!). 

This article points to an HBR study that gives three contributing factors to high functioning teams.

  1. Trust among members
  2. A sense of group identity
  3. A sense of group efficacy

Okay, so teams need to trust each other, define themselves in terms of the group, and they must feel, that as a team, they have the ability to actually get something done. Again, duh!

Turns out that for some cultures (and for some people) a team dynamic is not just a nice to have. Thanks to Mark for pointing me to this article that suggests that in Asia the team might be the biggest factor in engagement (see, I told you I’d attempt to bring this to a point).

In talking to customers about teams, there are several head scratching elements that HR groups face in trying to build teams that work well together. Why do some teams work well and others not? Is it one person? How do we predict which teams will succeed? And so on. 

In my mind, it is for teams that the value of the social network can be brought to real business benefit. I would like to predict that companies that learn to leverage their social networks as both a productivity tool for teams and as a tool for proactively identifying team members will find a new competitive advantage for their talent. And, if the insight into Asia is accurate, there might be exponential benefit to this strategy as well.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.