Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Leadership and Talent Management - Follow the Leader?

by Lucy Cadman at Developing People

Before settling down to life at Developing People at the grand old age of 33, I had previously had a grand total of 12 (yes, twelve!) jobs since leaving University. It doesn’t take the world’s greatest mathematician to work out that in the 12 years since I graduated at the age of 21, that equates to an average of one job per year. Add in the fact that I was at home with my young family for 4 of those 12 years, and the statistics become too embarrassing to calculate! I’m not even going to mention the fact that absolutely none of my jobs have ever been in the subject area within which I graduated …

So why the massive turnover rate? What was so dissatisfying about my previous roles, and what makes me so sure that I will be at Developing People for the long term?

The 12 roles I have previously held are so amazingly diverse that you couldn’t begin to imagine they have all belonged to the same person. There have been three legal roles, two accounting roles, one teaching role, one equine role, one electronics role, one publishing role and three businesses of my own – one selling baby items, one making dance dresses, and one making dog coats. If you add in my occasional dalliances into life as a wedding saxophonist, a music teacher, a driving instructor and a Tarantula breeder, the list goes from the sublime to the ridiculous!

Law, accounting and teaching were all areas that I enjoyed very much, but at which I actually possessed very little obvious talent. My mistakes were ready, my successes were few, and my leaders were constantly irate with me – instead of giving any time and effort to what I *could* do, I felt as though they were constantly berating me for what I *couldn’t* do. In my work with horses, I was constantly taken for granted – whilst I loved the beautiful animals, their owners were a whole different ball game! I would regularly put in ten hour days and often sixty or more hours in a week for no recompense whatsoever, whether it be a surprise day off, a bit of extra pay or even just a simple “thank you”. Working in electronics turned out to be rather a let down – the company had massive ideas and ambition, but no one was actually capable of leading it into realising its potential. Whilst I had some happy times at the publishing company, again the leadership there was fatally flawed – given that the company was a Christian charity, the fact that the boss was a regular moonlighter did nothing for the morale of the rest of the staff. And probably the least said about me running my own businesses the better – let’s just say that I lack the discipline to produce the required output when working for myself from home.

It is a sad fact that all the companies I have worked for previously had lacked good Leadership and equally as importantly, good Talent Management skills. If I had received the right encouragement, training, appreciation and had leaders that I could aspire to be like, then I don’t doubt that my previous role count would be a quarter of what it actually stands at.

Talent management is concerned with the long term success of a business by ensuring that it has the right people in place to fulfil all the necessary roles in the future. It minimises the risk to the long term future of the business or organisation by ensuring that there is a pipeline of people with the right skills, experience and behaviours to fulfil key positions in the future.

As we stand in May 2010, the job market is currently on a steady increase after the economic downfall that the UK has faced in recent months. However, whilst this is a good thing in some ways, it brings its difficulties in other ways, as the talented members of an organisation’s staff become harder to retain. Businesses face their staff being “poached” – leaders, team members and all. If they want to retain their staff, they need to do something positive and proactive about encouraging and developing them.

Whilst remuneration is a key influence, other factors such as strong leadership, the potential for job advancement, new career paths and training and development programmes for high potential individuals will all act as significant motivation for employees.

So back to the second part of my original question – how can I be so sure that I will stay at Developing People for the long term?

I am now in the job of my dreams. From my thorough but gentle induction plan through to the regular reviews where I get chance to both give and receive feedback, from a relaxed and fun yet so very productive working atmosphere through to fantastic colleagues and leaders who are always ready to help, support and encourage, from challenging yet stress-free work through to ever increasing opportunities for advancement, and from feeling like a valued team player to having the space and time to manage my own workload in my own way – I feel like I have landed on my feet ten times over. This is down to flawless Leadership and impeccable Talent Management within the company.

Would you like your employees to feel this way about your company? Or as an employee, do you want your boss to make you feel like you couldn’t possibly ever leave and move on? If so, take a look at the Talent Management section of the Developing People website for some ideas on how we can help this to happen.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Must a Good Leader Be Liked?

by Lucy Cadman at Developing People

It strikes me at some point during most days how lucky I am to have such a great boss. No, that’s not just me trying to earn some “Brownie points” – it really is the truth! Having worked for some particularly challenging leaders in my time, I feel justified in being able to comment what makes a good leader, and on the subject of whether or not a good leader must be liked.

A few years ago, I worked for an ogre – and I really do mean of full-scale proportions! This particular gentleman was totally and utterly unapproachable, whether it be with a problem, a question, a suggestion or any degree of social chat. He would stalk through my office at ten minutes past nine every morning on the way to his own dominion, and would (if I were lucky) snap a curt “hello” as he went past. Until he stalked back out again at ten minutes to five every night (despite demanding total and unerring punctuality for nine to five from myself), the only words I would receive from him were bullet-pointed instructions fired as if from a gun, or complaints and criticism if a miniscule item happened not to be one hundred percent perfect.

He honestly believed that he commanded my respect and therefore my devout hard work by this harsh, Dickensian method of running the office. However, it is safe to say that there were more errors made, more disasters that could have been averted, more severely unhappy clients and more questions that never got answered owing to the fact that I lived in constant fear and trepidation of having to knock on his door and go into the lion’s den. Funnily enough, after two days I was hunting through the local job adverts, and after two months I had moved on … shortly followed by my predecessor … and then their predecessor … and then theirs …

Since then I have had a thankfully-received plateau of “pretty nice but nothing truly spectacular” leaders, and have finally, gratefully and happily reached a point where I feel I can ascend no further in the kind of leadership that I receive now.

Good leaders must be many things in varying quantities – for example :

* Trustworthy
* Enthusiastic
* Confident
* Purposeful
* Tolerant and calm
* Analytical
* Committed to excellence
* Respected

They must also be able to motivate and trust their workforce, communicate their ideas well, work effectively and practically, encourage and inspire their staff, and above all, lead by example. They must have drive, passion and enthusiasm, not only for what they do, but for the people who they are responsible for.

BUT is it necessary that they are liked, or even likeable? Or is it purely an added bonus if this is the case?

There is an old military saying that if you take care of your troops, they will take care of you. Another vital element to a good leader, therefore, is taking care of those they lead. Employees who feel good about their workplace and the way they are led will contribute far more above the bare minimum required, and will generate high productivity for a relatively low turnover. So it is imperative that a good leader must be respected and able to get results, as well as also being able to find out what motivates each member of their team personally – and this care for people is something that cannot be faked, or brought to the working environment by someone who could be defined as unlikeable or unliked. Having said that, part of being a good leader is also going to be making difficult decisions which may not be popular (obviously with the best interest of both the business and the team at heart), and it is important that a good leader does not value being liked above making a sound business decision.

My boss took a holiday to South Africa recently, and got stranded there for an extra week in the aftermath of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano. In his absence, I noticed two things in particular. The first thing was how easy I found it to run the office due to feeling confident in my abilities brought about by his faith in me and his encouragement of me. I felt comfortable with the strategies that were in place (even though none of them catered for such an emergency), the clients that I had to deal with, and the workload that we had to tackle that week, again primarily due to the constant good leadership that I experience day in and day out. The second thing was how quiet the days were without the light-hearted and sociable companionship that I am used to there being around this office environment – something that I guess you take for granted until it is not there.

What role does Leadership Development play in all of this? Is it possible to learn all the qualities of a good leader, and thus for a person to transform themselves from having less likeable qualities to being really liked? Leadership skills can of course be learned, but leadership also comes from within – leadership can bring about a transformation within those being led, but the leader must have both the right tools and the right attitude and disposition to see that transformation begin to happen.