Talent Trumps Everything!

Billions are invested in the latest sales and marketing automation tools. Billions are spent on training of all sorts. We spend countless hours looking at the right processes, the right systems, the right tools, the right metrics.

Managers spend countless hours developing strategies and making sure plans/goals/programs/metrics are in place to execute the strategies as effectively and efficiently as possible.

If managers are doing the right job, they are investing time in coaching and developing each person on their teams–getting them to reach the highest levels of performance.

All of this is meaningless if you have the wrong people!

Peter Drucker is credited with the quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

But talent trumps everything!

Having the right people in the right jobs is the foundation for success in everything we do. However, I’m constantly amazed at how casually managers treat “talent” issues.

Too many are very causal about what they are looking for in talent. They haven’t taken the time to have a rich understanding of the critical competencies–not just skills and experience, but behaviors, attitudes and other competencies required for top performance.

Too many think, a great sales person can sell anything.

Too many don’t pay attention to bad fits within the organization–either changing the job or the requirements to fit the individual, or ignoring people that are simply bad fits.

Many are afraid or slow to address talent problems. They say, it’s better to have a poor performer in a job than to have an open headcount. They ignore the costs of that poor performer—both in lost business (current and future), the adverse impact that individual has on others in the organization and the management time involved in dealing with the poor performance.

Some are fast to fire and hire, thinking people are commodities, not recognizing the costs–real and opportunity, for this kind of churn and burn approach to talent.

Still others don’t recognize the needs change, and don’t invest the time, resources, or money in developing their people to make sure they fit both current and future needs. It takes time to determine your specific talent needs–not just job descriptions or requirements. It takes months to find the right person, more months to onboard them, and still more for them to be fully productive. There aren’t a lot of things that enable you to compress that cycle, so getting it wrong or not paying attention to it costs millions. Getting it wrong organizationally, can threaten the viability of the organization.

VC’s care as much (sometimes more) about the quality of the “team,” or the talent than they care about the idea. They know the right talent can adapt or pivot if necessary, but the wrong people will doom the organization to failure.

Talent problems are one of the slowest and most difficult things to fix–and too often we first recognize we have talent problems when we are in crisis–we have to fix the problems yesterday.

The best leaders I know set finding, developing, nurturing talent as one of their very highest priorities. They recognize the best strategies, plans, programs, systems, tools, and processes are all meaningless if you have the wrong people.

They invest in finding the right people, maintaining a deep bench, continually developing talent, and constantly valuing it.

Talent trumps everything!

How much time do you invest in understanding your talent needs, making sure you have the right people in the right jobs, continuing to develop them so they meet your future needs?

It’s should be at the top of your priorities.

This post was first published on the Partners In Excellence blog on November 16, 2015.

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