Talent — Does It Come from Desire, Ability, or Both?


*In this guest post, Melvyn Payne, Development Director at Advanced People Strategies, takes a look at the challenges facing Talent Management.

It is no surprise to see hard-working, collaborative individuals with great social skills emerging as potential leaders and being nominated for talent development programmes. In fact, it makes a welcome change to some of the overly ambitious, pushy individuals who feel they deserve a space at the top table but do not always demonstrate the capabilities to be effective.

So why is it that many of these apparently talented individuals subsequently have problems, or even fail, when they take on more responsibility or lead a team?

Perhaps we should start by considering why they are nominated in the first place. Their willingness to take on work and commitment to delivering high quality output for their boss often means they are some of the highest performers in the team.

They tend to be valued by their colleagues and their manager as they are typically modest about their own achievements and avoid playing politics – they tend to be someone everyone enjoys working with.

When times are tough, their manager knows that, if asked, they will be willing to put in even more hours and go the extra mile to keep stakeholders and clients, or customers, happy. What’s not to like?

It seems natural then for an ambitious manager, who themselves may be keen to progress, to assume others are like them and push forward this talented team member to take on more responsibility, stretch themselves, and be rewarded with a place in the talent programme.

However, imagine the talented team member does not like being in charge or having lots of responsibility and that their passion at work comes from a desire to simply help and support others. Perhaps they have no interest in status for its own sake and when the boss says it is time to attend a talent programme, being co-operative, they may find it hard to say ‘no’.

Subsequently, when pushed to make independent decisions, take initiative or stretch people, our talented individual may find it hard to make the tough call, or prefer not to be the one who is responsible for challenging others. Under the pressure of a more senior role, the day to day strengths may suddenly become barriers to being effective.

As leaders, other than helping talented individuals to learn strategies to adapt their behaviour as they climb the ladder, do we always spend enough time considering what motivates their behaviour and what they really want from their career – or do we assume they all want to be the CEO just like us?

For more information about Advanced People Strategies, visit www.advancedpeoplestrategies.co.uk.