The Awkward Talent Paradox of Growth

The impact of the post-Lehman recession has left no business unscathed and for many, perhaps too many, they are no longer with us.  The vast majority of businesses hunkered down, dealt with the crisis, restructured and refocused their tight resources. They displayed toughness, resilience and ingenuity to deal with the challenges.  The economic climate has been improving at long last in many, though not all economies, and indeed the opportunities for some organisations are now the best they have experienced in over a decade.

Many clearly and unambiguously had the capabilities, skill,  cast of mind and personality to lead their organisations through crisis and recovery. The awkward paradox is that a fair proportion of these businesses do not now have what it takes to seize the moment.  The awkwardness is that their current leaders are the very people they relied on so successfully to get them through to today.  People they openly acknowledge they owe a debt to.

We are currently working with one such organisation, an international financial service business, where this paradox is only too apparent.  There is a commitment now to invest in the development of those whose talents were so vital to them over the last few years of retrenchment, restructuring and consolidation.  But our research into the what future leaders need to excel in redefines talent and potential for them opening the doors to a new wave of next generation leaders. But at the same time closing down options for some of the ‘hi-potentials’ of 2008 – 2013.

The development centres we will be running for them, their investment in management development now funds available, and their desire to bring in and integrate new talent are all demonstrate a forward thinking and humane response to this talent paradox.  Their fast growing business will have to exercise the subtle arts of engagement, communications, sensitivity to personal ambitions and motivations whilst rebuilding and extending their talent pool.  Not easy at all but all the signs are that they will do this well.

As we talk to executives of other organisations we see that the talent paradox of growth is a live and current issue everywhere.  The skills of survival are not the skills of growth, entrepreneurship, opportunity seizing, capability building.  The legacy talent bench no longer embodies the skills and leadership styles required to move the business forward in today’s VUCA but optimistic environment.  So:

  • Where do your new leaders come from?
  • How many of your legacy talent pool can be revitalised?
  • How many are now going nowhere further?
  • How do you treat them with dignity, say thank you for contributions in the past but bypass them for the new generations?
  • And do you yet know who these next generations leaders are?
  • And do you know what they need to be good at?
  • So, how do you find those with the potential to be next generation leaders in your organisation?
  • And if you can’t find them from within what will you do to find them outside?
  • And how will you accelerate their development?
  • And how will you build cross-generational bridges with the long serving executives?
  • And how do you do all of this with a business focus, at pace and with dignity and humanity?

Resolve this talent paradox and your company can join the select band of renaissance businesses.


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