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Spotting Talent: A Five-Factor ModelSenior leaders learn early that they must cultivate the art of delegation. However, wh...
Focused development might consist in stretch assignments that target specific kinds of situationalchallenges (i.e. turnaro...
My experience suggests that when leadership teams conduct talent development roundtablesessions every six months for two y...
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Spotting Talent William P Macaux Reprint

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Five-factor model and process for characterizing leadership potential.

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Spotting Talent William P Macaux Reprint

  1. 1. Spotting Talent: A Five-Factor ModelSenior leaders learn early that they must cultivate the art of delegation. However, when it comesto their role in spotting talent and building a pipeline of hi-potential leaders, they sometimeslearn late that this is something they cannot delegate. Rather, talent development, especiallyleadership talent, is something they must take on personally and model with vigor, acuity, andpassion. Indeed, it must become a source of competitive advantage .There are many procedural systems for identifying and developing hi-potential candidates foradvancement in leadership and management. Such "talent management" systems provide soundstructure and guidance for an organization-wide effort, but that is not what I will address in thisbrief article. Rather, I want to share a simple five-factor model that any management team mightuse to prompt a thoughtful review of talent, especially when their purpose is to spot hi-potentialcandidates.I use the term "hi-potential candidates" rather specifically. It designates those whose observedpotential suggests a promising trajectory of development. They might be expected to qualify forbigger leadership roles in the next 18 to 24 months, and perhaps even have potential for two ormore moves beyond that. While they all must have some managerial skill, it is their leadershippotential that I emphasize here. Ideally, we find at least a few who might become "leader-managers." Let me explain.I rely on the distinction that John Kotter made between management and leadership.Management focuses on bringing order and consistency to performance. By contrast, whatleaders do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.We usually find more people with management skill and potential than withmanagement and leadership skill and potential. When they possess both we may, followingKotter, distinguish them as leader-managers.Five-Factor ModelThis model is intended to be used by senior leaders, those responsible for creating a talentpipeline. Your firm may have a sophisticated talent identification and management system inplace. In that case, you will find the five-factor model below a practical reality check for howyou spot hi-potential leaders. If you have no such system in place, you need not wait until you dobefore taking practical action and nurturing your most valuable asset, your talent pool.The questions that follow each factor label prompt reflection. In the course of answering themyou must recall concrete examples of successful (or not-so-successful), work-relevant leadershipbehavior that you have observed. These examples demonstrate an individual managers actualreadiness and potential for taking on more challenging roles in leadership. You will characterizeestablished strengths as well as areas of performance that might be further enhanced withfocused development. 1© Generativity LLC
  2. 2. Focused development might consist in stretch assignments that target specific kinds of situationalchallenges (i.e. turnaround, large-scale change, start-up) and associated leadership competencies.In any case, you cannot delegate your role in spotting and developing leadership potential. Afirms best leaders are those who learn how to do the work of building the talent pool, deployingtalent in ways that further prepare those with hi-potential, and thereby bolstering organizationalsustainability.Any rating scales, tools, or processes through which you might summarize, organize, andcompare candidate potential will draw upon the observations that emerge from your narrativeresponse to the questions below. So, lets first review them, and then I will suggest some processdynamics that might be helpful to keep in mind when you meet as a senior team to discuss yourtalent pool.1. Practical Impact: What has she done that demonstrates practical intelligence,resourcefulness, and a managerial capacity to get things done by leveraging the skills of otherpeople and the systemic capabilities of the firm? Has she done this more than once? Is it enoughof a pattern to justify attributing to her a capacity to replicate this performance across situationsand over time?2. Intellectual Power: What has she done that demonstrates a capacity to deal with complexissues intelligently and adaptively, especially in conditions of ambiguity and perhaps operatingunder the added stress of time pressures? What was impressive about the quality of her insight,her capacity to maintain composure, deal with stakeholders, and produce a positive outcome?3. Personal Integrity: What has she done that demonstrates authenticity, strength of character,and a capacity to acknowledge vulnerabilities and form constructive interdependencies withothers? Was she driven into this openness and collaborative posture by circumstances, or did sheinitiate it? How were her actions and attitudes received, and what was their practical effect?4. Emotional Intelligence: What has she done that demonstrates a capacity to gain attunement tothe feelings and concerns of others, to resonate with their values, concerns, and point of view?Has she been able to win and sustain the trust of others over time? Has she used this skill to alignforces for a common purpose and to repair ruptures in relationships?5. Communication Skill: What has she done to demonstrate that she can communicate with adiverse set of stakeholders in order to a) gain mutual understanding and b) exercise influence?Has she shown that she can break down barriers, deal with defensiveness, and open dialogue?Has she been able to inspire and motivate others when leading change?Process DynamicsAn approach to discussing talent that I have found quite effective with senior leadership teams isthe talent development roundtable. As the term suggests, it is a structured but not a procedurallyrigid review of the hi-potential talent pool. You might wish to have the process facilitated by anoutside expert at the beginning in order to keep discussion on track and to capture key insightsand next-step plans for action, such as when and how to provide feedback to candidates. 2© Generativity LLC
  3. 3. My experience suggests that when leadership teams conduct talent development roundtablesessions every six months for two years they become quite proficient in spotting talent. First,they become more fact-based and objective in their appraisals of their own people. Second, theybecome more open to conflicting points of view, better able to respond with an attitude ofcuriosity. Third, the playing field for next-step career opportunities is leveled for candidates fromdifferent departments or units.Regard this as the engine for hi-potential leader identification and development. No proceduraltools will be as valid or reliable without the rich, fact-based, consensus-driven insights thatemerge from these discussions. Stakeholder feedback can definitely add value. And regular, highquality one-on-one supervision and coaching sessions will also position you to makeobservations that inform your use of the five-factor model.However, taking a team approach to the vital organizational task of spotting and developingtalent is the crucial difference. Indulge your stylistic preference in how you approach this workas a team. Use your meetings outside the formal roundtable sessions to share experiences andsolicit advice from others on specific coaching or talent development questions. This often oneof the few genuine examples of how a senior leadership group truly functions as a team!Here are a few practical guidelines and principles that should govern roundtable interactions: Each sponsor arrives with detailed notes from his/her response to the five-factor questions. The sponsor offers a brief (15 min) developmental overview of strengths and development needs. After the sponsor overview, colleagues offer points of view and questions en route to a consensus. You should not expect to cover more than one or two people each depending on your team size. Identify potential developmental stretch assignments in advance but do not predetermine candidates. The goal is to arrive at an objective appraisal of potential, a "non-proprietary" attitude about talent. Careful consideration of what and how to communicate feedback to candidates is critical.At the beginning, it is often advisable to keep the process simple and expect to learn from yourexperience. Use this brief article as a thought starter in one of your next team meetings. Dont gettoo mired down in process issues. Approach it with an experimental attitude. Good luck!If you have specific questions about how to apply the ideas presented here in your company,please contact the author at bill.macaux@generativityllc.com.Bill Macaux, Ph.D. MBAPrincipal & Consulting PsychologistGenerativity LLC617.312.5305www.generativityllc.comHelping executives unleash their potential to lead and make a difference 3© Generativity LLC

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