What to avoid as a new leader?

By Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

Leader moving to a new organization is often faced with various challenges.   In this section, I’ll touch on what to avoid as a new leader.

Being a bull in a china shop—By this I mean, the leader fails to try to understand what is going on and, based on personal perception, proceeds to change things all around.  By doing this, you will alienate everyone, because people will feel like you did not take the time to get to know and understand the situation.  In the long run, this could cause more harm than good and the people would stop listening or, worst case, leave the company.  Just imagine a bull entering a china shop.  You can picture the distraction and damage that the bull can cause. 

Bringing your band—When there is a leadership change, it is understandable that the leader would also bring a few of their people to help them effect a change.  The keyword is a few.  But if the few brings a couple more people, the people in the company will realize that there are no opportunities for growth, because all management positions are being held by the band.   In this case, what is the incentive for the existing people to work hard?  This is particularly true for young employees who are seeking opportunity to move up.  With the change, it would make them feel like it is a dead-end job.

Not listening to your stakeholders—As a new leader it is important that appropriate time be spent in understanding what worked and what did not work.  It is safe to assume that the reason you were hired was because the management wanted to affect change.  Without spending the time to listen, the leader would not be working toward meeting the management’s expectations.  Failure to achieve any progress over time will cause the management to question your ability to deliver results.

Boiling the ocean—The leader wants to affect change only after a thorough analysis of the situation.  A thorough analysis would require a lot of time.  Sometimes the leader needs to take advantage of the knowledge of the subject-matter experts in conducting the assessment.  There is an old adage that says “You don’t need everything to do something”.  By this we mean there are times we need to make a decision based on the information available. 

In life, we sometimes learn more from the leaders and managers that were not effective, because we learn what not to do.   The experience we gained will aid in our overall development as leader.

Developing Talent Around Us – Strengthening Relationships One at a Time

By Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

According to Jim Collins, the right people who are in the right spot are our most important assets. However, we could have the right people, but if we do not guide and nurture them, they will not grow, develop and reach their full potential. Developing talent is important to every organization, because it helps increase their employees’ capabilities, thereby enhancing their competitive advantage against their competitors.

More than ever, it is important for companies to invest in talent development. Developing their employees could help them spread the workload and sustain a level of performance to meet the needs of their customers. From a potential employees’ perspective, they would prefer to work for companies that have good talent development, because they know it could help them achieve their career goals.

Developing talent in an organization is crucial for sustaining business growth. As we develop more people around us, we are organically increasing our company’s overall capability to compete with its competitors.

Developing talent is by and large is a huge undertaking and investment. Companies need to realize that it is better to show their staff that they are committed and care about them. There is no shortcut to developing talents. They must invest the time and effort and provide the learning opportunities that can help everyone develop and grow on the job. It is also important to note that while it is important to develop talent not everyone wants to be developed. There are people who want to do their job and nothing more. It is the realization that talent development is not for everyone.

In this economic time, it is best for companies to let the current leaders work with each of their employees and determine who could be developed. As everyone is dealing with managing and balancing multiple responsibilities, it is recommended to start our talent development by looking at a few people who are proactive and willing to learn. These are generally the same people who often volunteer to work on other assignment and are willing to go above and beyond. By doing so, we are strengthening our relationships one person at a time. This type of development is a focus approach. By that we mean the training is catering around the development need of the individual. As we develop more talents, they can help us develop other members of our group or organization. It is important to note that each person we develop will in turn help develop other people in the organization.

Cost of losing employees

According to John Dooney, manager of strategic research at the Society for Human Resource Management, if no other employee leaves due to the departure of the original departing employee, the cost of losing an employee is about 38 percent of the departing employee’s annual wage. If another employee of similar rank/pay leaves, the percentage doubles.

The cost of on-boarding and training a new hire is more than that of retaining an existing employee. Besides, there is no guarantee that the new hire will be able to attain the level of performance of the employee that left the firm. In essence, the cost of doing nothing will be more than the cost of developing talent, because the company will not be able to compete with its competitors without the right people on the job.

Employee turnover affects the bottom line of the company. Every company should calculate its rate of turnover and the cost of turnover—at least for key positions for benchmarking purposes. Then, strategies should be developed to reduce turnover and, thus, increase profitability. Such strategy would be to develop a talent-management program.

Why is it important to develop talent?

To show we care:  By investing the time, money and effort into educating and training our employees, we are in essence showing that we care about their future. It is also one way for the employer to show his/her commitment.

To empower:  With proper training and support the employees will be able to take a proactive roll in doing their jobs. They will also be able to make educated decisions based on the knowledge gained from training. The empowerment comes from experience, knowledge and support of the management. Because people feel they are valued and their opinions are heard, the morale will in increase.

To promote from within:  As the company develops talent one at a time, there would be more people qualified to be promoted. This provides the company with the golden opportunity of promoting from with.

To share knowledge:  With more people knowing the business, processes and technologies that the company utilizes, the employees can create a knowledge base to share the information across the enterprise. The employees that we develop can in turn become subject-matter experts.

How to develop talent?

Assess the existing business needs:  This is the first step. We need to understand the need of the business and the strategy of the firm. This way, we can define the resources needed to achieve such goal.

Assess the capabilities of your staff:  In this step we would engage the staff to discuss their development needs. Once we’ve agreed on the development needs, we can come up with a development plan. The development plan must follow SMART. Specific – Measurable – Actionable – Realistic – Time-bound.
Engage your staff and discuss their career goals: In order to develop them, we need to understand what motivate our employees. What makes them come to work? What do they value? It is important to understand what make them tick, because it gives us the information of what to do to retain the employees

Track progress and provide effective feedback:  Once the development plans are in place and the training starts, we need to track the progress of our employees and set up meetings to discuss their progress. The manager must make sure the meeting doesn’t get canceled or postponed, because that would give an impression that we are not serious about it.

Reevaluate the plan and adjust accordingly:  Any plan would require an update when necessary. When a situation changes or roles and responsibilities change, we need to update the plan to reflect the change. This would ensure that the plan is up-to-date.

Ways to develop talent?

Formal training: Sending your staff to an internal or external instructor led programs associated with the job.

On the job training:  By shadowing and working with a co-worker, your staff can learn new skills required on the job. On-the-job training at times is the most effective way of developing talent, because the person is learning and applying what was learned. This is often done by shadowing a co-worker while learning the ropes and understanding the business and the different processes. This type of training can be classified as business knowledge, process/workflow and role-specific.

Mentoring:  When a more experienced member of the organization helps develop a less experienced member of the organization or team. Mentoring can either be formal or informal. The mentee benefits from the experience of the mentor. This is a very important way of developing talent. However, both mentor and mentee must be committed in order for this to be successful. The key for mentoring to work is that there must be commitment from both parties and the mentee must be proactive and take responsibility for the relationship. The mentee can leverage the knowledge and experience of the mentor to learn about the company and the business. In return, the mentee must show commitment and progress.

Coaching:  A process in which a person helps someone learn how to deal with a situation or solve an issue. The key to this is that the coach must not give the answer, but rather guide the person to arrive at the solution. There are three key aspects to this: order of decision—the coach will guide and help the person navigate through the issue. Critical discussion in which both parties must be open and honest in discussing the issue or task at hand is important. Finally, for coaching to be successful there needs to be effective feedback in place for the person to learn how and why the solutions work, or not. There is an old adage that we teach them to fish and not provide them the fish. If they learn the skill, they will be able to repeat and develop upon it. Whereas, if we provide the fish, they will always wait for us to provide them with the solution to the problem.

Conclusion

Employees often leave their job, not because of the company, but because of their manager. As managers, we need to show our employees that their work matters and we want to invest in their future. Companies need to realize that without their commitment to their employees there would be no growth opportunity for the firm. Furthermore, companies need to be on guard as to why they are losing key talent to other firms. Why does their key talent leave the firm? It goes to show that there is something wrong with our talent development strategy. By developing talent one at a time, we can cater the development to the employee’s individual need, because not everyone fits the basic mold that would be offered by a standard training program.

People in the right place are our most important resources. We need to guide and develop our staff to enable them to be qualified for future promotion. We need to show commitment in helping them grow and learn on the job. By doing so, we increase the overall capabilities of our company. When our employee can do our job, it will free us to do more things and take on more responsibilities. The investment and commitment will result in an increase in competitive advantage that will help the company growth.

Coaching

I’ve been in the Information Technology field for almost 19 years, 12 of which were in management in various organizations.   Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work for a couple of great managers who coached and mentored me. 

Over the last seven years, I’ve been focusing on developing talents.   I realized that for our organization to succeed we must continuously develop the talents around us.   One way of developing talent is through coaching.

What is coaching?    Coaching is a process in which a manager helps someone (an employee) learns how to deal with a situation and solve a problem.  Why is coaching important?   Like children, we have to develop some of our core competencies in order to succeed in our careers.   By developing those core competencies, we enable ourselves to improve our ability to deal with situations and come up with effective solutions.    I compare coaching to teaching people how to do a task instead of doing the task for someone.    By letting the person do the work, he/she will slowly develop the ability and improve upon prior experiences.

A coach can be directive or non-directive.   This varies based on the experience and competency of the employee.   Ideally, the coach should not offer the solution, but rather guide the employee in coming up with the right solution.    When the employee is new, the coach can guide him/her in think through the problem and guide him/her in coming up with the solution.   The coach can also provide the solution, assuming the employee’s solution is not feasible.   When the coach provides the solution, he/she needs to offer the rationale behind it.  This will allow the employee to understand how the coach derived the solution.

What are the critical factors for coaching to be effective?   There must be open and honest communication between both parties.   The coach must be interested in developing the employee.   There should be no hidden agenda on either side.   Lastly, the coach must make the employee feel that he/she can be trusted.   Therefore, the coach and employee must maintain confidentiality.

Now more than ever, the need to develop talent around us becomes more important because of economic conditions.  With fewer resources to work on our projects, we must come up with creative ways to get things done.   By coaching and developing talent, we are investing in our employee’s future.   In the end, it is a win-win situation for the coach and the employee.