The Chief Executive of South African retail chain Woolworths, the owners of David Jones, says ‘you can only achieve anything through people. You have to surround yourself with the best people. You can never do anything on your own. I do not think you can ever have enough talent within a business’.
The defining contribution good leaders can make with employees is to boost their engagement and encourage those who have talent to make a contribution above and beyond their day to day tasks.
Engaged talented people can have a direct impact on the bottom line. They can lead to engaged clients, which leads to better sales, innovation and better internal efficiency.
Ideally employees should not just be skilled in performing the steps needed to accomplish specific tasks but also have the talent to achieve agreed outcomes and contribute to the team’s effort.
Even so, not every employee has to be ambitious. There are a lot who are content to work within their capabilities and have little ambition to go beyond what they are currently doing. Nonetheless they should still be recognised for their contribution and be encouraged to take pride in their work.
Good leaders see beyond just being satisfied with employees performing the specific tasks they are paid to perform, instead they look beyond this and search for those with talent. Those who can improve the way the job is currently being done, who challenge the status quo, look for better ways to perform their tasks, embrace innovation and strive to improve internal processes.
Natural talent within a person can often be hidden because the work they do does not demand they use it. The job of a good leader is to uncover who has talent and develop it. Failure to capitalise on the opportunity can often result in talented employees becoming disengaged, losing motivation and eventually moving on.
When recruiting employees it is inherent for most leaders to appoint new hires just because they appear to have the skills needed to carry out a position, whereas good leaders select them for the talent they can bring to the job. The extra you may have to pay them will reward you in the long run.
Here are some steps to take in developing talent;
- First, identify what extra is needed from your people that will help the organisation to achieve its long term goals and sustainability
- In an informal way really get to know the identified people who you judge have talent. Ask them about their past roles, what achievements they are most proud of and what they consider are their best skills. What it is they try to avoid doing. Pose the question as to where they plan to be in 5 and 10 years from now. Where they believe they can add value to the business. Ask the question ‘What do they think we can do better?’
- Give them an insight into your strategic goals and ask for feedback. Measure the responses
- Consider what you have learned about them during the discussions and what you need to put in motion that will make a valuable contribution to the success of the organisation and will contribute to them achieving their aspirations
- Let them know your plan and agree to meet regularly to discuss progress and any barriers that maybe preventing you and them from achieving the key initiatives.
Just having these discussions will give the talent a feeling of self-worth. More importantly it should lift morale and kick your organisation’s performance up a few notches through improved productivity.
The author of this article is Ken Meek a BCD mentor and Principal of M2 Strategic Management