Performance Consulting

Talent Management Part II – The Classical Bottleneck

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Let's thinkAlmost every one of your employee wants to become a future leader. The scope up the ladder is very narrow. Are you aware that you are creating a traffic jam that you can’t handle?

Read on.

This is a common situation in majority of organisations. I have handled talent pool of a leading organisation. As part of the talent management practice we interviewed the talent pool members to know their career aspiration. It is obvious that every one of them wanted to become a future leader. However, can you afford to create so many leadership positions in your organisation? If not, then why are these employees made part of the talent pool? It is not a simple mathematical (a+b)equation to be solved.

As an organisation you have to answer some questions first

a)      Are these hipots capable of becoming leaders?

b)      Do they have the natural inclination towards leading people and getting tasks done through people?

c)       Why do they want to become leaders?

If your answer to question (a) is no, you can build their skills. What will you do if your answer to question (b) is no? People’s personality/behavior can’t be changed through learning interventions. Of course they can learn to flex their behavior to suit the position. Imagine the frame of mind of a manager who was cultivated through command and control leadership style, who, is now working in an entirely new domain, has to consult cross functional teams and collaborate with subject matter experts to accomplish projects. For this person, flexing is not part of the package but the package itself. However, one can only flex so much.

Question (c) is the tricky one to answer. One may want to become a leader because he enjoys the work. One may want it because of the power the position offers. One may want it because of the scope to grow and earn more quickly. There could be many more reasons.  Are you aware why your hipot is aspiring for a leadership position?

Let’s dig deeper to get a grip of this situation. Why should every one want to become a leader? Answering this question is mile zero. If you are willing to walk with me beyond mile zero, read on. Otherwise you may go back to the useful things that you were doing.

Welcome to the talent management journey. You reading this paragraph is proof that you are willing to go beyond the discomforts. Good luck to us :)

Now, the big question. Why should every one aspire to become a leader?

Everyone may have a reason to achieve their goal. Sometimes the reason may not be in alignment with the goal. Let’s look at the following situation –

Jack is a subject matter expert; he is impeccable when it comes to delivering quality in time. Jack has been a consistent performer. The organisation recognized his service and made him part of the talent pool. During the career aspiration mapping exercise, Jack expressed his dream to become CIO in the next 5 years. He clearly expressed that he wants training in leadership related areas.

As part of the talent management exercise, the HR team conducted personality profiling and 360 degree feedback to all the members. The findings from the profiling exercise and 360 degree feedback for Jack, converge in the following areas

  • Jack is highly dependable when it comes to delivering quality on time
  • He works towards consistently improvising practices
  • His contributions for process improvements have benefitted the organisation immensely
  • Jack comes across as a specialist and would love to work as an individual
  • Jack does not consult/collaborate with others fearing that it may negatively impact delivering quality
  • He may tend to ruffle feathers even during non-crisis time

Does this situation resonate with some of the talent management situations in your organisation? Try answering these questions

  • Why would Jack, who doesn’t have the natural inclination to lead people, want to become a leader?
  • Who is responsible for creating this situation? If I say it is your organisation’s policies and practices, would you agree?
  • Technical expertise is not an absolute criterion for middle management and leaders. If getting the best out of human resources is the prime task of leaders, don’t you think major portion of their CTC should be a variable pay?
  • Without specialists/subject matter experts can you run your organisation? You can hire a leader from any domain but can’t do the same with SMEs. Aren’t these key resources? If yes, then why don’t we fix a major component of their salary under the basic pay?
  • If you agree to look at leadership as just another role in organisation, don’t you think you can avoid this classical bottleneck?

Think twice. Think harder. Why create a demand that you can’t handle?

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Manoharan Rathinam


A Thought Leader at Prashna and a nature enthusiast at heart, Mano has invested nine years in to Sales & Marketing Management and over nine years in the Human Resource function. His raison d'être can be summed up in one statement – to make people see their hidden potential. While he isn't nurturing and working towards accomplishing this dream, you'd probably find him scuba-diving or paragliding some place.


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