Issue No. 209 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting highlights a new book on what it takes to be a talent manager. It’s a fascinating look inside GE. And this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Talent With No Buzzwords
The first sentence of this week’s book sets the pace for perpetual gut checks on almost every other page: “If businesses managed their money as carelessly as they manage their people, most would be bankrupt.”
Bill Conaty, former senior vice president of General Electric, and Ram Charan, co-author of Execution (and three other books I’ve reviewed here), have delivered a highly helpful book, packed with practicality far beyond the no-brainer subtitle, “Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers.”
I’ve never met CEOs and senior leaders who dispute the priority and importance of people in their organizations. But I do find serious people-related dysfunction in many organizations. There are ample strategic plans, but few people plans—intentionality about growing people and succession. It’s hard, but rewarding work.
The Talent Masters describes the GE system of people development:
--“Only one competency lasts. It is the ability to create a steady, self-renewing stream of leaders.”
--“One reason hardheaded managers disdain the ‘soft stuff’ is that it so often reflects soft thinking.”
--“An exercise in a course at Wharton’s advanced management program exposes the futility of buzzword descriptors. The instructor at a recent session asked the participants to explain Steve Job’s distinguishing talent.” Just one caveat: do it without using buzzwords. (The six pages on “Calibrating Steve Jobs” is, literally, worth the price of the book—it will change your thinking forever on what the co-authors call “searching for the specifics” in talent.)
--“Talent masters assess and express what each person is in reality, not against some predetermined checklist.”
--Addressing the seven principles of the talent masters, they write, “The HR function will only be as strong as the CEO wants it to be, and if the CEO doesn’t have high expectations for it, HR will remain second tier.”
--“In a fast-changing business, the person who is right for a job today may be wrong in a year or even six months.”
--“…being a talent master is a total leadership job, rather than the sole province of human resources.”
Here’s another gut check: “At the top [of GE], especially, there are no strangers. The CEO and senior vice president of HR know the top six hundred people in the company intimately—their families, their hobbies, their likes and dislikes, their skills, strengths, psychological tendencies, and development needs. These six hundred executives have become almost a family.”
This under-the-covers look at GE’s annual planning process is revealing. From January to June they’re looking at people. From July to October, they address strategy, and in November it’s all wrapped together into operations and budget. Core values (like a culture of forthrightness and candor) ooze out continuously.
Really…there are just too many highlights in this jam-packed toolbox. You’ll learn about their foundational “Session C” approach, including this: “They’re not afraid to confront the reality that everyone makes mistakes; the worst mistake is the failure to remedy those already made.”
Another insight: the balance between “hammers” and “softies.” Every leadership team needs both. One more: GE regularly categorizes their top people talent into three groups: Top Talent, Highly Valued and Less Effective.
I gotta stop—and I haven’t even mentioned the Talent Mastery Tool Kit, more than 40 pages of resources, including:
--12 critical true or false questions on “Does your company have the culture of a talent master?”
--The how-to’s of mastering talent (selecting, developing, assessing, and recognizing and retaining leaders)
--A 9-box grid (3 boxes across, 3 down) to categorize your people. The 3 across the top: High Potential, Moderate Potential, Topped Out
--“Guidelines for Your Next Talent Review” and much, much more
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic below for The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers, by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) On the “Lessons Learned” summary page, the authors write, “Think of shortcomings first as development needs rather than fatal flaws.” How does our organization think about shortcomings?
2) Under the 12 “Leadership Pitfalls,” they list “not developing your own succession plan.” How effective are we—at all levels—at seamless succession?
Extravagantly Generous - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas for nonprofit Christian organizations and churches in the Donor Bucket, Chapter 11, in Mastering the Management Buckets is to challenge donors to be “extravagantly generous.” So how does your organization’s fundraising practices measure up against this imperative from the Apostle Paul?
“Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” (I Timothy 6:17-19, The Message)
For more ideas and resources on giving and generosity, visit the Donor Bucket.
March 15, 2011 – ECFA FORUMS 2011: “Board Governance Essentials for Ministries” with John Pearson, Wes Willmer and Dan Busby at The Hope Center, Plano, Texas (Dallas area). Register at ECFA.
April 5-6, 2011 – MASTERING THE MANAGEMENT BUCKETS Workshop Experience: Orange County, Calif. Details.
April 26, 2011 – CEO DIALOGUES ROUNDTABLE with John Pearson and Bob Kobielush at CLA Dallas 2011. Register at Christian Leadership Alliance.
Note: Dates for our 2011 Management Buckets, Nonprofit Board Governance and 3-Year Rolling Strategic Plan workshops are now posted here, JPA 2011 Workshops, along with some new workshops on hiring and firing (Top-10 Hiring Mistakes) and goal alignment (The Results Bucket).