How Great Leaders Approach Talent Management

Unlocking all the potential within your talent pool does not happen overnight. But training your high-potential leaders to take a more strategic and holistic approach to talent management is the best way to quickly affect meaningful change.

“…start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders…”
— Ralph Nader

I speak to rockstar leaders all the time who say they wish their companies had done more to prepare them for leadership.

Far too often, I hear how they made their own way, how lucky they were to find a mentor who helped them model their behavior, or even how they got where they are despite organizational pushback. They come to me feeling depleted from all the time and energy spent figuring everything out on their own.

This tells me we need to approach talent management differently. How many more leaders (and high-performing team members) would your organization have if talent management was more about activating potential than measuring performance? How many more still if all your organizational leaders were explicitly trained in talent management?

To borrow from the esteemed activist Ralph Nader, let’s “start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders.” In other words, superior talent management skills should be expected of competent leaders.

Here are six (6) traits of exceptional talent management to foster across your high potential leadership pool:

1) A hunter mentality: Great leaders take an active approach to talent identification. They’re always on the hunt for rising stars within and outside the organization.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Identifying and calling out leadership qualities in others
  • Thinking beyond today’s open positions to identify candidates who meet tomorrow’s skills needs
  • Networking within and outside their organizations to broaden exposure to new people and keep in contact with skilled individuals

2) Commitment to multi-pronged learning: Great leaders work continuously with their HR business partners to carve out new and meaningful learning pathways for their team members.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Regularly consulting team members about the learning initiatives they’d find most valuable
  • Ensuring the company explores innovative L&D strategies (including professional coaching)
  • Developing personalized learning plans based on skills and interests

3) Identifying developmental projects: Great leaders pay attention to the developmental needs of their teams and specifically assign work that provides them with unique growth opportunities.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Assigning high-potential team members to cross-functional projects
  • Carving out leadership opportunities for aspiring leaders to hone their skills
  • Committing at least 5% of employee time to work that helps them develop new skills, even if that work falls outside of their current functional role

4) Providing mentorship: Great leaders are mentors to many and foster a mentorship mentality across their teams.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Creating an infrastructure that rewards knowledge sharing rather than competitive knowledge hoarding
  • Making space for both formal and informal mentorship relationships to develop
  • Actively listening to team members’ needs and exposing them to the proper internal experts

5) Integrating the efforts of different people: Great leaders know they must activate human potential at the individual and group levels.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Understanding the individual strengths of each team member
  • Understanding the collective strengths of the team
  • Bringing together people with unique yet complementary skills to flex their strengths through joint projects

6) Elevating diversity of thought and skills: Great leaders don’t fall into the trap of developing only those who remind them of themselves. Instead, they value those who challenge the status quo and bring new ideas to the table.

What that looks like in practice:

  • Seeking out people with diverse talents and perspectives to build well-rounded teams
  • Setting up diverse task forces to help make decisions and solve organizational challenges
  • Considering both work and leadership skills before on-paper “fit” when making promotional and hiring decisions

You can’t expect to unlock all the potential within your talent pool overnight. Dozens of factors impact whether or not an employee struggles or thrives in your company. But training your high-potential leaders to take a more strategic and holistic approach to talent management is the best way to quickly affect meaningful change.

Leaders can best activate their teams’ talent when they’ve been coached to know what qualities to look for and how to encourage them. They also need to be granted the necessary time to devote to true talent management. Once you have this foundation and start to reinforce it from a cultural perspective, I guarantee you’ll see a happier, high-performing workforce emerge.

Are you ready to take the next step? Schedule a free consultation about what coaching strategy best matches your leadership goals.



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