secrets to an actionable talent review

7 Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

Their faces turned a little green when they realized I was in earshot. “I’ll talk up your candidate if you talk up mine,” and “Let’s be sure to downplay their developmental opportunities so they end up in the right box (referring to the performance potential grid),” AND worst of all, “He’s not perfect, but who is, and we’ve been friends a long time, and he’s paid his dues,” is not what the HR Director (the role I was playing at the time) wants to hear before a talent review.

“Guys… (and yup, they were all guys)… You get why this is completely counter-productive right?”

We fixed that scene.

But the truth is, we all know these kinds of conversations are happening right outside the door of many talent review sessions, just beyond HR’s earshot.

That’s why when a client asks me to help with their talent review process, we always agree to these rules up front. Otherwise, it’s just a pretty grid that many hope will be ignored. That doesn’t advance the talent strategy of the organization and just leads to frustration.

Seven Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

  1. Think forward. What skills does our future require?
    This is particularly tricky for leaders doing a talent review for the first time. Human nature says “Pick me (or someone who looks and thinks like me).” But if you’re really focused on a future succession plan, a long step back to consider the skills needed for the future is vital. Take a few minutes (having an objective third party can help) to really define the KSAs needed for your most strategic positions (and BTW, some of your most strategic positions may be highly skilled folks at the front line.)
  2. We speak the truth.
    Yes, talent reviews are important for identifying successors, but the EVEN MORE important part is finding the gaps and working on ways to grow the team to address them. If “John” is AWESOME, but still needs work in critical thinking, for &%@#$(@3% sake tell us that, so we can help John and get him the training and experience he needs for success.
  3. We care about the business, and the human beings we are talking about.
    We’re not trying to derail careers, we are looking to be helpful. Take a deep look at what the business and the people within it need. Let’s build a plan to leverage strengths and support development. Ask: EXACTLY how will we help people grow people into these roles?
  4. Every resource is a corporate resource.
    When we identify someone as high-performance/high potential, we’re all committed to developing them and looking out for the best opportunities for them and for the business. We’re committed to letting go of “mine” and “yours” and working together to seek out lateral assignments (that may feel like cutting off our right arm) and promotions.
  5. The list we create will guide our staffing decisions.
    This is perhaps the most vital. Building a map that no one has any intention of following is a big waste of times. If your team is not aligned on the decisions made in the session, take a pause and revisit the outcomes.
  6. How do we support and grow the hi-po individual contributors?
    They’re at the front-line, you need them, they may even be leading a small team, but they’re not your next CTO. How do you re-recruit these A-players and help them build a successful career, here?
  7. BONUS:  Take some time and talk about the other big rules you care about and want to agree to.
    Linger here as needed. Go to go fast, to have a successful talent review.

Your turn. What are the most important “rules” for a successful talent review?

The Performance Potential Matrix Demystified: 5 Behaviors Keeping You Out of Box 9

You know your boss is headed into the talent review meeting. You’ve updated your resume, had the heart-to-heart, and said your prayers. And then… the response, “It went fine… just keep up the good work… oh, and be patient.”

If that’s ever happened to you, it’s probably because of a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” type oath amongst the execs having the conversation. And rightfully so, the most important part of any talent review conversation is candor. And no exec wants to tick off a hi-po by being the naysayer–even when it’s true. Because, you never know who you will work for next. 

But as the holder of the marker, leading hundreds of succession planning conversations inside Verizon  and with many clients since then… I’ll tell you right now, yes– candor is key– and so is feedback.

I will also share that every single time someone in my organization asked where they fell on the grid I told them, and why. Not who said what, of course. But the only fighting chance someone has to get better is to know how they’re being perceived. Candor is rare. And valuable.

5 Behaviors Keeping You Out of Box 9

When I lead these discussions, I don’t accept “There’s just something about her style.” Or “He’s just not that strategic.” Such generalities are BS. And so we drill further. When we get to the real issue, there are 5 issues that come up again and again. So if you’re not where you want to be on the grid, or you’ve been sitting in a square… “ready now” but getting passed over again and again, consider if you fall into any of these behavioral traps.

  1. Your Performance is Sketchy
    The performance part of the talent review is pretty clear-cut. If you’re not knocking it out of the park, no matter how brilliant or talented you are… results matter. If you’ve taken over a bad scene that’s not your fault, even better… fix it.That will be great fodder for the next performance-potential discussion.
  2. You’re Always Talking About Your Career
    If you have 37 mentors, and are seeking advice from everyone with a title who will listen… chill out. In my keynotes, I call that woman “Carol Career Path,” who’s more focused on the job she wants, than the job she has. “Carol” always gets laughter and many “I know this woman (or man)” nods. Carol is everywhere. Don’t be Carol.
  3. You’re the Loudest One in the Room
    Either literally or metaphorically. Either way it drives folks crazy. Meetings take twice as long when you’re in town. If you find that you’re doing most of the talking, instead of wondering why everyone else is so quiet, try changing half of your sentences to questions, and then be quiet. Really listen. High-potential leaders get others talking. 
  4. You’re Overly Competitive
    This one’s tricky, particularly in a stack-ranked world. And, I’m quite sure it kept me out of box 9 early in my career. It took me a minute to understand that peers are your lifeline. Yes, your team’s performance matters. Yes, yes, you’re more likely to get into box 9 if you’re sitting at the top of the stack rank. But keep the bigger picture in mind. The company needs EVERYONE knocking it out of the park. High potential leaders look around and see who else they can help get the results they neeed.
  5. You’re Rude
    Yes, rude. It comes up in nearly every discussion. Some rock star thinks they’re above the need to treat people with dignity and respect. To say “good morning” and “please” and “thank you.” If there’s any chance you’re treating your boss with more manners than you are your assistant, you may need some more work in this arena.

ww-winning-well-sidebar-impact-live-dec2016-370x370taglineYou’re working too hard and care too much to sabotage your career with these behaviors. If you’re not where you want to be in your career, I encourage you to ask those you trust for candid feedback about what might be getting in the way. 

Join Us For a Live Winning Well Event

If you’re looking for to get your team off to a fast start to 2017, I’m pleased to announce our public Winning Well Impact Live event. Click on the image to the left to learn more.

You may also enjoy this article we wrote in Fast Company: 10 Common Excuses that Silently Damage Managers’ Careers

 

What Wikipedia Can't Tell You About Action Learning Projects

Done well, action learning projects are one of the very best forms of leadership development. A great action learning program (ALP) has tremendous benefits:

  • New ideas from fresh perspectives
  • Real work gets done
  • Learning is contextual
  • It doesn’t feel like training
  • Participants must manage through complex situations and team dynamics
  • Terrific opportunity to showcase talent to the executive team
  • Safe testing ground for high-potential talent

If you have no idea what an action learning project is, Wikipedia actually does a pretty good job of describing it.

Action learning is an approach to solving real problems that involves taking action and reflecting upon the results. The learning that results helps improve the problem-solving process as well as the solutions the team develops. The action learning process includes (1) a real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex, (2) a diverse problem-solving team or “set,” (3) a process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection, (4) a requirement that talk be converted into action and, ultimately, a solution, and (5) a commitment to learning. In many, but not all, forms of action learning, a coach is included who is responsible for promoting and facilitating learning as well as encouraging the team to be self-managing. In addition, the learning acquired by working on complex, critical, and urgent problems that have no currently acceptable solutions can be applied by individual, teams, and organizations to other situations.

But what Wikipedia can’t tell you is why this beautiful design so often fails. Having been involved with hundreds of action learning projects over the years, I’ve seen amazing, breakthrough work and also colossal train wrecks.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing an Action Learning Program

1. Lack of Project Sponsorship

Participants get REALLY excited about their project, and pour their heart, soul, and many long hours into making it happen. But they’re oblivious to the political dynamics lurking beneath the surface. They didn’t have access to the right people or all the information. They spin their wheels, and these high-potential employees feel frustrated that they wasted their time, and become resentful of the experience. Sure, learning to stakeholder is all part of the game, but if the mountain is gnarly, a knowledgeable sherpa is only fair.

2. Unclear Parameters

Be clear on big rules, resources, and other parameters. If the real deal is they must solve the problem with no funding or other limitations up front, say so.

3. The Wrong Players

Action learning projects give participants exposure to executives. Not all exposure is good exposure. Be sure you pick the right talent who are ready for this experience. Yes, stretch, but don’t send them into the deep end the first day they learn to swim. I’ve seen people’s careers seriously damaged from being pushed into such programs before they’re ready.

4. Lack of Supervisor Commitment

Sure, one sign of a high-potential leader is that they can do THIS and THAT, meaning they pull off the work on this project while doing their day job. But it’s important for supervisors to understand the investment necessary in such programs. If they consistently get in the way of participants attending meetings or doing their fair share, the high-potential participant can become very stressed worrying about balancing their relationship with their boss and preserving their reputation with the ALP team.

5. Lack of Implementation Resources

Typically such programs result in recommendations with an assumed handoff to the appropriate team or department for implementation. Be sure to secure the appropriate commitment. Nothing’s worse than the “Whatever happened to that project?” feeling. A few false starts, and your ALP will lose all credibility.

Done well, it’s hard to top action learning for leadership development. Be sure your design is well-thought through.

If you’re interested in creating or improving your leadership development program, or running an Action Learning Program for your company, please give me a call for a free consultation.

kellyriggsJoin me tonight on Biz LockerRoom radio at 4pm EST for more details click here.

What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Action Learning Projects

Done well, action learning projects are one of the very best forms of leadership development. A great action learning program (ALP) has tremendous benefits:

  • New ideas from fresh perspectives
  • Real work gets done
  • Learning is contextual
  • It doesn’t feel like training
  • Participants must manage through complex situations and team dynamics
  • Terrific opportunity to showcase talent to the executive team
  • Safe testing ground for high-potential talent

If you have no idea what an action learning project is, Wikipedia actually does a pretty good job of describing it.

Action learning is an approach to solving real problems that involves taking action and reflecting upon the results. The learning that results helps improve the problem-solving process as well as the solutions the team develops. The action learning process includes (1) a real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex, (2) a diverse problem-solving team or “set,” (3) a process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection, (4) a requirement that talk be converted into action and, ultimately, a solution, and (5) a commitment to learning. In many, but not all, forms of action learning, a coach is included who is responsible for promoting and facilitating learning as well as encouraging the team to be self-managing. In addition, the learning acquired by working on complex, critical, and urgent problems that have no currently acceptable solutions can be applied by individual, teams, and organizations to other situations.

But what Wikipedia can’t tell you is why this beautiful design so often fails. Having been involved with hundreds of action learning projects over the years, I’ve seen amazing, breakthrough work and also colossal train wrecks.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing an Action Learning Program

1. Lack of Project Sponsorship

Participants get REALLY excited about their project, and pour their heart, soul, and many long hours into making it happen. But they’re oblivious to the political dynamics lurking beneath the surface. They didn’t have access to the right people or all the information. They spin their wheels, and these high-potential employees feel frustrated that they wasted their time, and become resentful of the experience. Sure, learning to stakeholder is all part of the game, but if the mountain is gnarly, a knowledgeable sherpa is only fair.

2. Unclear Parameters

Be clear on big rules, resources, and other parameters. If the real deal is they must solve the problem with no funding or other limitations up front, say so.

3. The Wrong Players

Action learning projects give participants exposure to executives. Not all exposure is good exposure. Be sure you pick the right talent who are ready for this experience. Yes, stretch, but don’t send them into the deep end the first day they learn to swim. I’ve seen people’s careers seriously damaged from being pushed into such programs before they’re ready.

4. Lack of Supervisor Commitment

Sure, one sign of a high-potential leader is that they can do THIS and THAT, meaning they pull off the work on this project while doing their day job. But it’s important for supervisors to understand the investment necessary in such programs. If they consistently get in the way of participants attending meetings or doing their fair share, the high-potential participant can become very stressed worrying about balancing their relationship with their boss and preserving their reputation with the ALP team.

5. Lack of Implementation Resources

Typically such programs result in recommendations with an assumed handoff to the appropriate team or department for implementation. Be sure to secure the appropriate commitment. Nothing’s worse than the “Whatever happened to that project?” feeling. A few false starts, and your ALP will lose all credibility.

Done well, it’s hard to top action learning for leadership development. Be sure your design is well-thought through.

If you’re interested in creating or improving your leadership development program, or running an Action Learning Program for your company, please give me a call for a free consultation.

kellyriggsJoin me tonight on Biz LockerRoom radio at 4pm EST for more details click here.

Succession Planning

The Secret Behind the 9 Box Performance Potential Grid

Do you know where you stand in your organization’s succession plan?

“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked…No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Most organizations use a deliberate approach like the 9 box Performance Potential Grid (great tool, for more visit Dan McCarthy).

If you have been told you are “high potential” do you know how many others are in the same “box?” in line for the same jobs?
If you don’t know, you should ask. If these programs are being executed well, those identified as having higher performance and potential will receive extra development and stretch assignments.

Being on the grid can be very helpful.

However the grid is based on perception and opinions. If you are in a good spot on the grid, great but don’t depend on it. If not, don’t freak out take action.

A grid does not define you.

Why Being on the Performance Potential Grid is Not Enough

“Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook. But when the system was broken, we wonder why you were relying on it in the first place.”
~Seth Godin

Organizations reorganize. Sponsors retire. Mergers happen. Politics change. It’s quite possible that all the people who put you on the grid yesterday, will be off doing something else tomorrow. Then, the grid is just a grid. Those opinions have moved on.

Performance Potential Grids don’t promote people, people do.

I went back and looked though the grids I had used in my organization as an HR Director years ago. Many names from the best parts of the grid have since been promoted and having strong careers. But other high performance-potential candidates had been caught up in mergers, downsizings, and other drama. Some are still unemployed. There were also people who had been once deemed “lower potential” now holding significant leadership positions.

Don’t wait for the grid

What else you can do.