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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Book Recommendation: The Talent Masters

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Hiring the right people for the right job is one of the most important things you can do as a business leader.  “The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers” by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan is in my list of must-read books for leaders at all levels.

If you are unable to read the book right now or would like to know more about before reading then take a look at these condensed notes below:


1. Talent is the edge

  • By repeatedly putting people into the wrong jobs, non-talent masters waste both human and financial capital when those people don’t perform
  • Talent is the leading indicator of whether a business is headed up or down.  Everyone agrees that it’s a company’s most important resource.
  • Talent will be the big differentiator between companies that succeed and those that don’t.
  • Only one competency lasts.  It is the ability to create a steady, self-renewing stream of leaders.
  • They have embedded in their culture the habits of observing talent, making judgments about it, and figuring out how to unleash it.
  • Key: to imagine not only what consumers want NOW, but also what they will want in the FUTURE, and what they will pay a premium for.
  • Conceive and execute not only differentiated products that yield high margin and brand recognition, but also business models that will exploit them most profitably.
  • Talent masters understand the subtleties that differentiate people.
  • Talent masters spot, find and develop people like sue through predictable, consistent, repetitive processes that develop candor and trust through the give and take vigorous dialogue.
  • Increasing capability leads to the kind of growth that expands cognitive bandwidth and produces higher levels of leadership.
  • Talent masters place bets on high potential leaders because:
    • People facing a stretch aren’t likely to be overconfident and are eager to learn from others.
    • It helps to retain talented people who are itching to advance and who may look to greener pastures if they don’t get a chance
    • Successful stretches will attract better candidates in the future because ambitious people will know that they don’t have to wait for slots.
  • Rarely do talent masters have to look outside for a CEO
  • Institutionalizing good judgments
    • Talent masters can identify a person’s talent more precisely than most people because they excel at observing and listening
    • They understand the nature of a person’s shortcomings – and the difference between a fatal flaw and a development need
  • Principles of the Talent Masters
    • An enlightened leadership team, starting with the CEO
      • Recognition that the top priority for the future is building and deploying the talent that will get you there.  CEO is committed to creating a culture of talent mastery and is personally involved in getting there.
    • Meritocracy through differentiation
      • Differentiation breeds meritocracy.  Sameness (the failure to differentiate people) breeds mediocrity.
      • Without exception, talent masters dig into the many causes underlying performance so that they can recognize and reward leaders according to their talent, behaviors, and values.
      • Working Values
        • Acting in a way others will admire and want to follow
        • We talk a lot about character, which I define as putting the needs of the organization above your own needs.
        • Masters, repeat and repeat their values and reinforce them by linking recognition and rewards with them
      • A Culture of Trust and Candor
        • Candor gets the truth out
        • Creating a culture of candor is the hardest part of becoming a talent master
      • Rigorous Talent Assessment
        • They review people as thoroughly and regularly as they review operations, business performance, strategy, and budgets.
      • Business Partnership With Human Resources
        • The HR function will only be as strong as the CEO wants it to be
      • Continuous Learning and Improvement

2. What a talent master does

    • The system works only because it is rigorous and constantly challenges people to prove themselves
    • Leaders are rewarded as much on how well they lead people as they are on the numbers they deliver.
    • Leaders come to know their people intimately through not only scheduled meetings and reviews, but also daily interactions and networking in social settings

3. Annual Review – Session C

    • Welch incited debate to test the person’s conviction. If they backed off he figured they didn’t really know what they were talking about.
    • Behind his tough language, Welch was teaching people the art of drilling down to get at people’s core qualities.
    • Welch loved battlefield promotions, by pulling a future star out of the pack and promoting them on the spot.
    • Looking for balance between hammers and softies, balance between CEO, CFO, and HR

4. Neutron Jack Welch

    • Called Neutron because like the bomb, the people were gone, but the buildings were left standing and intact.
    • The culture of candor and relentless drilling for answers ensures discussions and conversations spark creativity and improve leader’s judgments about other leaders.
    • Senior leaders rated 1) top talent  2) highly valued 3) less effective
    • Masters spend a lot of time with emerging leaders in social settings
    • Performance – getting results – is viewed as the ticket of admission: it’s expected as a matter of course.  But leadership values determine whether a person will rise in the organization.
    • Constructed a set of company values, laminated on a card and distributed
    • 4 Block values matrix, performance, and values, – eliminated those who did not buy into values, type 4 managers.
    • Summary
      • A formalized talent evaluation mechanism
      • The pursuit of accurate knowledge about individuals
      • Timely, constructive oral and written feedback
      • Connections between people and numbers
      • Self-evaluation
      • The responsibility of leaders to develop other leaders
      • The practice of Rossmar values – must be lived
      • The power of intimacy with individuals
      • The power of social processes

5. Growing Talent

    • Spend 30-40% of your time growing talent
    • There is no better investment than improving the quality of your future leaders.
    • Leaders are born, not made.
    • You cannot make leaders, all you can do is look for, find, and polish leaders.
    • The “what” of leadership is getting things done.  The “how” is acting in a way others will admire and want to follow.
    • People who are individually brilliant but cannot work well in teams get weeded out.
    • Senior people must cut two, three levels to spend more time with junior people.
    • Character and integrity determine whether a person should go to a higher leadership position.
    • Great challenges grow great leaders: leaders must have tough assignments to grow.
    • It is also very important HOW you get the results.

6. Being a change agent

    • Your problem is that you still think your job is to be the smartest guy in the room.
    • What you’ve got to do is NOT prove that you’re the smartest guy in the room, but make everybody in the room think that THEY are the smartest guy in the room.
    • Demonstrate through actions and coaching
      1. Ask questions
      2. Use a Socratic method to get them thinking of things.
    • How to enhance a leaders self-awareness

7. Becoming a talent master

    • Masters understand that there is a difference between trying to patch things up and rebuilding the organization’s talent for the long-run.
    • They select leaders not only for their business skills but for their impact on the organization’s ability to grow talent.
    • Successful leaders
      • Team builders
      • High IQ’s and analytic abilities
      • Fit within the chemistry of the organization
      • Have courage to innovate
      • Work ethic and speed faster than others
      • The best decisions come from a smart GROUP
      • Leaders know what they don’t know
      • Leaders must be courageously innovative
      • Leaders must be passionate about their business but remain unemotional when making key decisions.
    • Not easy to build a performance-driven meritocracy
    • The best companies draw the best talent in disproportionate amounts
    • Recruiting process is not fastest, but is thorough and analytic.
    • It is scary if the majority of your top leadership positions don’t’ have a solid pipeline of successors.

8. Leadership Criteria

    • Capacity
    • Passion and aspiration
      • Are they continually raising the bar on their own performance?
    • Motivation
      • Are they personally motivated, and can they excite and energize others?
    • Team player

9. The principles of talent masters

    • An enlightened leadership team, starting with a CEO who really “gets it” and sees talent development as a competitive advantage
    • A performance driven meritocracy, a willingness to differentiate talent based on results as well as the values and behaviors behind those results.
    • Explicit definition and articulation of values, citing strong company beliefs and expected behaviors.
    • Candor and trust, leading to better insights into people’s talents and potential, focusing on development needs to accelerate personal growth.
    • Talent assessment/development systems that have as much rigor and repeatability as systems used for finance and operations.
    • Human Resource leaders as business partners and trustees of the talent development system with functional expertise equal to the CFO’s.
    • Investment in continuous learning improvement to build and continuously update the leadership brand in sync with the changing world.

10. The how to’s of mastering talent

    • Get senior leaders involved in selecting leadership talent
    • Hire for leadership, not just functional or academic expertise
    • Learn about the person’s values and behaviors before hiring
    • Be humble enough to bring in outsiders when you have to, but take steps to ensure their cultural assimilation
    • Be honest about who has the greatest leadership potential
    • Make talent development your obsession
    • Give frequent, honest feedback
    • Make talent development and an explicit part of every leader’s job and hold them accountable to it.
    • Consider what the individual leaves behind
      • Look at their work after they vacate a position, everything in order?
    • Tell people how they fit in
    • Spread financial rewards throughout the year
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