It has been fashionable for some time to say that the talent of people is the # 1 element for a company to succeed. But it seems to me, that there is too much superficial statement about this and that the bottom line of the matter is not always understood.

Talent is the most important thing. Or not

To say that people are the most important thing “and that is all” is a dangerous reductionism.

To succeed, the first thing is to have a solution that solves the problem or frustration of a sufficiently large number of clients. A public who is aware that they have this problem, have the money to solve it and, of course, wants to do it.

After that, it is clear that it´s the people who have to start up and put into practice that solution through a viable, sustainable and scalable business model, if it is possible.

I say yes, but then…

Many claim that people are the most important thing. But then they do something else.

What is done has nothing to do with what is being said: super-salaries for senior managers and payrolls going down for workers, scandalous privileges for some and shortages becoming more numerous for others.

They speak freely of the need to capture talent, but then the human resources policies of their companies have little to do with it: they sign up cheap, mediocre and low-talented people. Americans already say it with great accuracy: “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” (not astronauts).

A very dangerous hypocrisy.

Uncontrolled talent

Others do care about finding and incorporating talent into their companies, but then they do not guide it well.

What is talent? Talent is the ability to learn and do certain things with ease. That is to say, one does not have talent in general, but has it for certain things more than for others: for music or painting, for logical analysis or programming.

It is necessary to recruit talent, and put it in the right place, because having a logical-mathematical talent in a place that requires social talent, will surely be unproductive. Having an excellent and creative graphic designer as responsible for the quality of processes, may not be the best way to take advantage of his true talent.

We can say that raw talent, without organizing it, can be perfectly dilapidated and wasted, as indeed many workers can corroborate through their own careers.

How to manage talent

First thing is to offer basic guidelines, fully assumed and internalized by the talented person, and then grant her a lot of freedom of action.

Which are the basic guidelines today in the business world?

The basic values ​​or beliefs about what is right and what is not, and what is really important on a day-to-day basis. What we could say sure of ourselves: “we defend this”.

The mission or the reason of being of the organization. What we are for as a company, what we are trying to solve in the world. “We exist for this”

The vision or the place we want to reach. The summit to achieve, that should inspire everyone in the organization. Something that may feel bigger than yourself, that will help people to commit. “Here we want to arrive.”

A key recommendation: take as a key criterion for the selection of your workers, particularly the most talented, that they share their personal values with those of the organization, and have a high potential to commit to the mission and vision of the company.

And how to get extraordinary results

If we demand from our talented people a commitment and, why not say it, strict obedience to those basic guidelines (values, mission and vision) and then we give them freedom and promote their creativity, inventiveness and initiative in the methods, on the way to achieve the goals, we will obtain more incredible results than we could imagine.

Because freedom and support for individual initiative in methods, provides flexibility and the opportunity for people to give everything they carry inside. It means also to delegate authority to those working on the ground, because they are the ones who see the real situation better and, therefore, those who can best decide what needs to be done.

Bosses and coworkers should also offer solid and explicit support for that individual initiative, so that people feel secure, appreciated, and supported in their decisions.

But, and it is a very big but, granting freedom and support to people without talent, is likely to create us many more problems than it will solve. Almost certainly, it will lead us to crash.

Finally, talented people need to be properly motivated, both externally – by the company – and internally – self-motivated – because otherwise they are not going to give us everything they have inside. But of this, so important, we will have to speak another day.

Why mediocre results are achieved

The problem is that in most companies demand is exactly the opposite: blind obedience to methods and procedures. Perhaps operating in the way that worked well at the time of its foundation, but that today has become obsolete.

And, by default, workers are given freedom, creativity and flexibility in the basic guidelines. Which leads them to set their own agenda: their own missions and visions, to put their own particular values at stake, that don´t have to be in tune with those of the company.

From there to the departmental fiefdoms and to the “internal bombs that go doing their own thing” there is only one small step. Does this sound like any of the companies you’ve been to?

Conclusions

If you don´t have motivated talented people, don´t expect extraordinary results.

If you have not clarified and sought commitment in the basic guidelines, don´t expect extraordinary results.

If you don´t have talent, don´t risk giving freedom in methods: standardize them and demand discipline in their fulfillment.

But if you have motivated talent, sitting in the right place, which has understood the basics and accepted the responsibility of being free to achieve the goals, then, my friend, get ready for incredible achievements and may the success doesn´t overwhelm you.

 

Disclaimer: This post was published on May 13th, 2015 in Spanish on the blog “Innovación con los 5 sentidos” by Javier Sastre on the following link