So You Can Judge Talent?

Talent can be judged? Think back to a time when you thought this person was going to be the cat’s meow, did they end up that way? I always thought that I could judge talent. Pick the raising star from a herd of folks! Well, it is amazing how many times I have gotten it wrong. Why? When you are judging talent, you put forth your bias toward the folks. You may find a person that is a younger version of yourself and think, well, that is the star. Take a look at the criteria that you are using to judge. Is it really fresh? Does it cover everything? Probably not. I was asked to judge a Spelling Bee for a local elementary school. I thought way not test out to see if I could pick the winner after sizing up the 12 participants. I watched and listened as they were getting ready to start (using my filters to see which one would stand out). Once again, I did not do well.

Since I normally would get it wrong, I stopped really judging and just let the work define the person. It is easier to focus my attention on the team and the folks that are the real talent will raise to the top. Set up an environment where those folks can flourish. How is that?

  • Teamwork: As the manager you need to set up a truly team atmosphere.  Have it be a collective group, that works on the complete picture. I like to involve everyone in the setting of goals, timelines and have them work together to achieve those amazing results. There are many traps to watch out for… So, it takes a lot of effort on the managers part to make sure everyone is aligned and moving in the same direction.
  • Diversity: It is something that is talked about a lot. Some folks think of this as only the different cultures, but it can include age. Make sure that when you are hiring that you keep in mind, your team. If you already have a very mature team, maybe hiring someone younger or fresh out of school – can help add to the team. You have to be willing to take chances to make the team better.
  • 8-5, no way: Don’t know any other way to put this category, it is not about being in the office from 8-5, Monday thru Friday. It is about getting the work “DONE.” It is simply about the productivity of each individual and the team as a whole. I used to have status review meetings that were about 20 minutes long. It was a simple way for the team to keep an eye on the work. Work that they knew would be coming their way and when.. Work that they could help out another, if needed. As a manager, it is great to witness the team helping each other. Mandatory hours don’t really work…
  • Set stretch goals: When the team has worked out their plan and timelines – add a stretch goal. Everyone loves challenges. When you set up the stretch goal remember to not do it every single time. Do it on those particular important ones, that could be a breakthrough or a key deliverable to help the larger organization win big. I have found that all teams, love to win big. Some pretty amazing outcomes have happened from a stretch goal that was extremely visible to the organization.

Once the environment is set, you can watch your people grow. For those that still like to judge talent and make assumptions on who is that star.. Did the star rise? Did someone else really step up? How  about the team? I have found some pretty incredible people that would have gone unnoticed if I stuck to my first impressions. I would rather have all or almost all of the team be stars… It is the team environment that you set up that is better than just your judgment.

Enhanced by Zemanta
  • John Simpson

    One thing I’ve struggled with is the time-lag between performance and judgement. As you know, we are “judged” annually in order to determine salary changes and other rewards. This gap in time often leads to other factors effecting the perception of what really happened. So either the method is broken (the lag) or the approach that we are taking.

    At a recent conference one of the keynotes covered a need for management change (Management 2.0, by Prof. Gary Hamel from the London Business School). One use-case he mentioned was that of W. L. Gore and Associates, the makes of Gore-Tex.

    They have no managers just leaders appointed as needed by the crowd involved in the work. The way they evaluate performance is not based on any individual project but rather based on gut-feelings associated with the desire to work with someone — importance to your work. As part of the “annual performance evaluation” you were asked to rank, in order of importance, everyone you worked with during the year. Since each person did that same ranking the outcome was less skewed and the overall rank was used to give compensation.

    Although some may see this as a “popularity contest,” I can really appreciate where this change in judging is shifting their company and helping to become 31st of the top 100 companies to work for in 2011 (based on CNN Money survey).

    PS: This company has more than 5,000 US employees and is privately owned. Not as comparable to a larger publicly traded company, but showing great success with alternate management and organizational thinking.

  • John – thanks for commenting.

    When you talk about annual performance appraisals, I agree. When judging talent, we make assumptions and sometimes like to insure that those assumptions come true. If I was to pencil in those folks that I thought were going to have exceptional years (at the beginning), I can safely say that looking at the complete body of work – I was wrong more than right. You have to look at the complete picture.

    Interesting that you bring up W. L. Gore (the manager-less work teams). I have read the materials and have been very interested on the progress. I do believe that is the team is being led by a leader (manager title or not) – success and team performance is always better. My opinion is some folks are “managers” that frankly should not be. They fail, which causes companies to go manager-less. Select leaders, please…

    I once brought in a 360 focal feedback system, back in the days of self-directed work teams in the late 80’s. This was around for about 2 years, before it was pulled. I like the concept and how it can help – but it takes a corporate culture that really is open and not hierarchical in nature.