Friday 22 January 2016

What makes your Hi-Po people, high potential?

I’ve been talking to several HR friends and clients about developing High Potential people (Hi-Po’s). The comments they make are similar, here are a few examples:
  • 'We have differences of opinion on what we mean by Hi-Po to begin with!’
  • ‘I am not sure we really know what do with a Hi-Po once we have agreed someone is Hi-Po.’
  • ‘I suspect we are not very good at differentiating needs. Our development plans do look like one-size-fits-all.’    

I want to start by asking a question that is not often asked:
  • ‘What is it like for the Hi-Po person?’

Why is this a useful question? Because the future is going to be about competing for talented people as much as competing for customers.

We need to understand more about the psychology of a Hi-Po person if we are to attract, retain and maximize the value in our talent pool.

There are numerous ways of defining a ‘Hi-Po Person’ and I realize I will be making some assumptions: I will focus on younger people selected for a career path, who are usually from a University route, and make a few generalizations, although there is supporting research.

What do Hi-Po people possess and what is their experience of life so far? And this starts with a big USUALLY they:
  • Are above average intelligence, quick to solve problems, quick to learn new concepts.
  •  Have excellent verbal and numerical reasoning, they see solutions easily.
  • Will be ambitious and have high expectations of themselves and you as an employer.
  • Have expectation that promotions and assume career success will follow.
  • They have found academic study relatively easy.
  • Have learnt how to relate to other senior, intellectually clever, ambitious people.
  • Work hard, but success has been more guaranteed with this hard work than for others.

You usually select Hi-Po people for their intellect, ability and cognitive capabilities. However, let us look at what Hi-Po people USUALLY do not possess. These are the blind spots you will need to develop.
  • They often do not understand why other people find problems difficult to solve, and take so much time to arrive at the answer.
  • They often find it hard to explain ideas and solutions to others, because others cannot easily follow the reasoning.
  • Others expect a lot from Hi-Po people so there is a pressure to perform; this includes family members as well as senior people at work.
  • Knowing that everyone expects great things from them, there can be a hidden lack of confidence.
  •  Hi-Po people have not spent time learning to build relationships with people who (they think) are not as quick or intelligent; there has been no need to, or value in it.
  • The language used by Hi-Po people is often more elaborate, which makes them harder from others to understand, or know how to talk to.
  •  Career promotions that do not move at the pace expected lead to frustration.
Conclusions? Hi-Po people are very quick at assimilating task and functional skills, and are well equipped to do this. However, they can find it more challenging to develop relationships and effective interpersonal skills. They may have a lower starting point than others who have learnt to use interpersonal skills as a substitute for not being as quick or clever. As a graph, (artistic rather than scientific) the Hi-Po would look something like this:

The task for Talent Development Managers is to close ‘The Hi-Po Gap’ by lifting the lower line quickly. Here are some ideas to maximize the value of Hi-Po people to the business. These activities offer a way of assimilating personal skills quickly. Give your Hi-Po people a chance:
  • Teaching and instructing others, which will develop communication skills.
  • Coaching others can develop patience and learn not to always give the answers
  • Team leadership duties means learning to handle a range of interpersonal, domestic and performance issues sensitively
  • Realign expectations on what they will and will not be doing in the day-to-day job
  • Do not over-promise promotions or career steps
  • Give a buddy at a subordinate level to provide advice on what life and work is like for others in the organization.
  • Give a mentor at a senior level to help with relationship building skills

Make sure your Hi-Po people reach their high potential and you get the benefit, not a competitor!

Next article: Talented or simply good?

About the Author:
Nigel Murphy supports the whole learning experience of MCE delegates across MCE’s wide range of solutions. He has a background in management in manufacturing, education and training. For the past 10 years he has worked on leadership programmes across the globe. He is interested in the mentoring of new managers and leaders, and leading remote teams of people in today’s globally 
dispersed businesses.


Tuesday 19 January 2016

Is LEAD - a four-letter word?

VIEWPOINT: ‘Leadership’ is an overused term, too often used as a lazy catchall. Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, calls for a focus on what it means to be a real leader, in this ninth in his series of articles for IEDP: Four-letter words are no-no’s and often none seems to come much bigger than the simple, single syllable statement LEAD. For instance, attach the “L” word to practically anything and you instil in it some kind of supernatural power. “He’s a business leader” is expressed in hushed tones as though we should all be impressed. “Sign up for our seminar on business Leadership and you’ll never look back” is a frequent favourite, hinting at practically guaranteed success. It seems to me that in today’s world the word LEAD is being used in a LAZY way. Users, it would seem, reckon that that the simple evocation of the “L” word conveys mystical powers (allowing those that use it to charge a good 50 percent premium on the services they are offering).

Consequently every consultant manages to work the L-word into their product and services. Therefore, it is not surprising that practically every conference, seminar book and research project is based on the thoughts of business leaders which will give you the magical insight to being a real Leader yourself. But isn’t it time we stopped over-using leadership as an all-purpose, over-contrived superlative - an unnecessary and distracting adjectival device? Come on think about it please.

Sure we know that most of us would rather be seen as leaders, but surely we have to earn it and be recognised for our abilities before it can be applied to us mere mortals. Calling ourselves a leader does not really work if no-one believes, or has day-to-day confidence, in our talents and abilities. Certainly, we can all read the right books attend the best programs and employ the best coaches, but none of that will make us a leader not for one nano-second.

There is a very old saying that you can fool most of the people most of the time. But you just can’t fool your people by proclaiming you are a leader when you are not. All the certificates in the world won’t be of any use when you are in charge and another “L” word appears in you working vocabulary – a- LONE; because that is where you will be -on your own. And that is when we all get to find out how good we really are.

Also there is another old adage that suggests that you can get away with not being a very good leader as a Number 2 but never as a Number 1. You can fake it , practically forever, as number 2 but take it from me - and  the many examples I’ve seen time and time again -  if  you have faked it, if you are not really what it says on the box, you will LOSE – big time.  Because, I can guarantee that circumstances will always conspire to make sure you meet that other “word and LOSE.  I have been around the business a long time and I have never seen a fake Number 2 ever succeed as a successful Number 1 – it just does not happen, and I don’t think it ever will.

So, yes, I do think the word LEAD and its bigger brother Leadership is overused and badly misunderstood. I think we spray the “L” word around without much thought. But tell you what.  When it all happens one day, you will personally know (deep inside) if you are really a leader or not. And, more important, your people will know that too right from day one– oh yes, indeed they will!! I have been scanning the world’s media and it is amazing how many just do not make it. And all too often they may get to Lead for a while but they don’t last LONG either. In our dumbing- down on LEAD as a word we have managed to reduce the average CEO tenure to less  than five years- so much for another Word victim –LONG evity !

But there is even more of a twist to this when you bother to stop and think about it. What worries me most of all is that we could end-up mistaking that simple, yet highly evocative word Lead for the similarly spelt LEAD. Otherwise known as a very heavy metal……. Chances are you get it all terribly wrong and the people you have come to lead will - if you don’t have it… sink out of sight like a lead balloon…….  In the Periodic Table of corporate life LEAD is most certainly a downer, not what naturally springs to mind when we think of ourselves as all conquering heroes saving the organizational universe.

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Engage direct with Rudi Plettinx here

Thursday 14 January 2016

The 2015 Global Leadership Development Study

Key findings:

  1. Global development that begins with first-level leaders or individual contributors fuels success. Delaying such efforts until candidates reach higher leadership levels has a negative effect on development effectiveness.
  2. Business and financial acumen are fundamental capabilities for leaders, but insufficient; social skills are the real differentiators, enabling leaders to apply influence and inclusiveness to drive greater productivity.
  3. Experiential learning is an essential element of blended development programs. Live classes, simulations, games, and specific work assignments deliver active learning effectively.
  4. Global mindset is a distinctive characteristic of effective global leaders. Embracing cross-cultural diversity and driving collaborative relationships within and beyond organizations are hallmarks of this evolved perspective.
To read more, please click here.

Monday 4 January 2016

The Leadership Grand Gesture

VIEWPOINT: Just occasionally leaders need to make a grand gesture to get their message across, Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, offers valuable insight on when and how to do it, in this eighth in his series of articles for IEDP:Newly appointed leaders often have a shrinking window of opportunity to get the team they’ve been given to manage on their side. My view is that you need to get their attention from day one, the first hour if at all possible. I think it is vitally important to send a message that will make the organization know you are serious about getting things done.

This is particularly true if you are being parachuted into a situation where there is low morale, high turnover or some similar corporate malaise.

But getting people to sit up and pay attention sometimes calls for a grand gesture. Something truly memorable. The stuff of leadership legend that will be talked about whenever the business ‘war stories’ are recalled and retold.

Just in case you need to make a grand leadership gesture one of these days, here are three real-life examples that might just get you thinking the next time you feel you need to make some instant impact:

  • A newly appointed general manager was sent into an organization where communications had broken down and employees were all suffering from low morale. Day one the manager arrived with a tool box in his hand. As headquarters staff watched open-mouthed, he took out a wrench and a screwdriver and removed the door to his office and had it taken away. The message was crystal clear. “My door is always open, don’t hesitate to come and talk to me.” This dramatic gesture achieved its goal. Within seconds (thanks to the power of email) the whole company knew what had happened at headquarters. This no nonsense, hands-on approach was the beginning of a spectacular turn-around in the organization’s fortunes.

  • Not quite so dramatic, but equally successful, was the manager sent as the new leader of an ailing division of a software provider just before the Christmas period. The day she arrived top management sent a memo to the whole company saying that – due to budget restrictions – there would be no Christmas parties that year. The newly appointed manager tacked up a memo on the notice board inviting everyone in her new division to her Christmas party which she paid for! Again, it sent an instant message to everyone and was the starting point of a turnaround: which, of course, resulted in a nice, fat bonus for the ‘generous’ manager.

  • Or how’s this for total leadership chutzpah? Sent in to shake things up by his U.S. electronics firm, the new head of Europe sent a very definite message just hours after his plane landed in Brussels. Taken to a Michelin starred restaurant in the city as a ‘welcome to Europe’ gesture by his top 50 managers he came up with a bigger, bolder gesture of his own! He only stayed for the soup, saying, “well guys you may have time for lunch, but I haven’t.” There was more to come. A keen skier, the new boss started each day running up the 20 plus floors to his office as part of his keep-fit regime. His personal team was ‘encouraged’ to do the same. The message, “we are here to do a job and we can’t do that wasting time eating lunch or even waiting for elevators.”

For leaders, grand gestures have their place. Only you can’t do them too often. So my advice is save them for when you really need to strike a chord, sending a message that won’t, ever, be forgotten. You’ll also have fun doing it too. Whoever said that leadership shouldn’t be fun? Not me. 

Do you have a story about a CEO, or senior manager who made the grand gesture to get a point across ? If so we’d like to hear it.

This column on leadership and organizational development is written exclusively for the IEDP by Rudi Plettinx, Managing Director of Management Centre Europe, the Brussels-based development organization. Have a comment or a question? Connect with him via Linkedin.