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1 Dr Marianne Broadbent is a Senior Partner at EWK International, an innovative global, executive search and leadership capability group enabling clients to make their leadership team the best it can be. She can be contacted on or Building Great Talent and Effective Teams by Dr Marianne Broadbent, EWK International Great CIOs need Great Teams The era of the ‘hero CEO’ has now passed, and so should the era of the ‘hero CIO’. Great leaders lead great teams. They don’t do it on their own. They work with their team, their peer colleagues and the rest of the executive and CEO to set the vision and identify what it takes to get there. They are dependent on their team members for follow through and dependent on their broader team to exercise leadership that is consistent with the desired culture and values of their organisation. Two areas enable CIOs to build the ‘benchstrength’ that they need. The first is spending time and energy on building their talent, on getting the right people and developing them well. The second is a genuine focus on improving how those people work together – on taking into account and building real teams, not just a group of direct reports. In this paper we focus on these two areas. They are interrelated in that great teams are enabled by effective management of talent, as well as focusing on team dynamics and mutual accountabilities. So what is Talent Management? Why does it matter? How does it help build great teams? Effective Talent and Team Management is now a ‘Must Do’ Conscientious talent management and succession planning is now a mainstream expectation for all executives. Focusing on talent management is no longer something to do when things slow down, but a ‘must do’ so that you can deal effectively with growth, with changing or shifting demands, be they to contain costs, develop innovative ways to delight customers or integrate a newly acquired business. But too many executives - and organisations generally - continue to underestimate the risk they place themselves and their organisations in by thinking of talent management, succession planning and team dynamics as something to focus on next week, next month or next year. © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
2 Case Example: What if you want to take on a line of business role in your organisation ? In conversation with a CIO recently (let’s call her Debra) we were discussing her future career options. Debra had terrific experience as an IT professional and manager, including three years working for a respected consulting firm (largely in the IT area), and was now concluding her third year as CIO. While her performance was well regarded in the company, we agreed that if she really wanted to be considered as a potential CEO she needed to have relevant and recent experience managing a line of business and delivering on a P/L. She became very interested in the option of taking on the position of General Manager of one of the company’s business lines, a position which was becoming available due to an impending retirement. My immediate question to Debra was what was the strength of her IT Leadership team? How many potential internal candidates would there be for her CIO position? The question was really about the potential risk she was proposing to her CEO in departing her current position. To what extent could she honestly indicate that the risk was low because she had a very good team with one or more individuals whom the CEO and his executive peers would be comfortable about seeing ‘step up’ into the CIO position? Debra blanched somewhat indicating that she was always going to get around to some serious focus on the whole matter of succession planning, but there were always more urgent priorities. While she had a good team, perhaps she hadn’t put the time and effort into careful talent development and management. Two on the team could potentially ‘step up’, but not just yet. And then there was the problem of the next layer down – the pipeline into the IT Leadership team, which was a bit thin. The immediate outcome was that Debra did not indicate an interest in the forthcoming business division GM role to her CEO. Instead she indicated that she would be keen to take on such a role in about two years, when her team had the ‘bench strength’ it needed so that several of her team could be in the candidate pool for a search for a new CIO if she transferred to another position in the company. © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
3 Good talent and team management maximises organisational performance and minimises risk Debra’s experience (see p2) is not uncommon. If you are a well regarded executive, your CEO and peers want to know that you have managed the company’s risk if you want an internal transfer, or if you are unfortunate enough to be in an accident, suffer serious illness or just decide its time for a ‘sea change’. The best compliment any executive can receive is that they have built a sustainable team that is not dependent for its success on one person – you as the leader. Great talent will go to where it is appreciated, valued, and encouraged to thrive. If you want that talent to be part of your team – and remain part of your team – it requires serious and genuine focus on knowing and growing the capabilities that you have. In the long term, it’s much more effective to develop and nurture the talent you have than constantly bringing new people in, especially at a senior level. Sure, you need some turnover to refresh a team, and sometimes to help staff or backfill for new developments, but constantly having to recruit externally through lack of talent development internally demoralizes people. It’s just poor management. Effective talent management requires systematic focus on capabilities Effective talent management starts with a systematic approach to understanding the real potential of your current talent pool. It’s more than ensuring 360 degree reviews and performance appraisals are completed each year, and it’s more than sending messages by skewing bonus pools for performance. If done well, these are important sources of (hopefully) critical and constructive feedback to team members. But they usually don’t provide an objective and in-depth review of an individual’s real capabilities in the context of the potential contribution to your organisation. The essence of good talent management can be summarised into four actions: 1.Gain objective and actionable insights into your team’s - and their team’s – technical, managerial and leadership capabilities 2.Act on those insights, not just once, but constantly, taking a longitudinal and integrated approach to tracking developments over time 3.Identify or create development programs tailored for individuals (and teams) to meet your organisation’s needs 4.Go external for talent when you have to (and use a well regarded Search firm to assist you) © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
4 1. Gain objective and actionable insights into capabilities It’s hard to develop an individual’s capabilities if you don’t really understand where they are right now. As Leadership Consultants, EWK International draws on a very grounded Capability Framework built up through working with hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals globally both through Leadership Capability and Development Needs Assessments and Executive Searches. Other organisations that operate in this area will have their version of this. The purpose here is simply to illustrate where and how these approaches assist executives with the challenges of talent management and succession planning. An outline of the key steps in the usual process is depicted in Figure 1 below. The actual approach is customized for each organisation. Case Example: Gaining a quick understanding of Team Capabilities Janine was a newly appointed Business Technology leader for a consumer goods firm. She needed to gain a quick understanding of her team. We gave her feedback initially on the organisational and structural changes she was planning to make. When she had settled on the first phase of new organisational arrangements and revised positions, we worked with her staff to develop position descriptions and a role-specific Capability Framework for each. This framework identified the specific leadership, management and technical requirements for each role. Each member of the team, and then many of their direct reports, was included in a process to understand their track record and potential, particularly in light of the new structure, focus and positions. In the end the new team comprised the majority of the previous incumbents, two from the next level down, and two positions became the subject of an external search due to lack of specific experience and capabilities amongst the top 20 or so in the Business Technology team. Figure 1: Know and Grow your Team Capabilities © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
5 This process is extremely helpful both for the organisation and for the individuals themselves. Depending on the objectives and focus, we often include as part of the process individual Emotional Intelligence assessments. This is usually done in an objective way using EI assessment such as those used by the Canadian based MHS group (see Figure 2 below). Depicted in that figure are the key areas of EI as assessed as part of that exercise which can be completed online by participants. It can be particularly useful for those with a technology background to understand some of their key behaviors and motivators. The learnings are often about the combination of attributes of an individual’s EI. The process requires too a good facilitator who is able to assist individuals to put their EI in context and to work with the strategies for improvement that usually come with EI individual reports. 2. Act on insights and take a longitudinal and integrated approach to capability development When business technology leaders take on a ‘know and grow’ approach it is critical not raise expectations that then remain unfulfilled. When leadership capability and development needs assessments are undertaken, the results need to be acted on – and in a timely way. A good leader knows there will be some hard decisions to make and will make them. Our experience is that when a process is transparent and fair people welcome the results and the action. Often you are surfacing what has been simmering under the surface for years in finally recognising real talent and contribution. It’s about making visible and tangible what is often invisible but the source of well founded mutterings. At the same time we find that others are often relieved to have honest and helpful feedback that enables them to make decisions they might have put off for years. Organisations undertake a capability development assessment for different reasons. We worked with a global energy company when a new CEO was appointed and shifted the balance of accountabilities – shifting much more to the business units while retaining a better defined – but smaller - set of services from the headquarters group. This meant that there were higher levels of capability required in the business units as their accountabilities both broadened and deepened. We worked with them to identify the real capabilities and development needs of the technology team at both the whole-of-organisation and business unit levels (see Figure 3 below). This enabled them to get a much better understanding of different types of capabilities. While this had an immediate impact on where some staff were deployed, it was also very useful when the Global Financial Crisis hit and they had to work through which staff would be most effective in what locations. Their business performed unevenly across business units and across the globe. A deeper knowledge of the capabilities of team members meant that they were able to match needs with resources much more quickly than they would have been able to do without undertaking the assessment process. Figure 2 – Understanding your Emotional Intelligence © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
6 If you want to send a message to your team about what really matters in terms of talent potential and behaviours, it is important to ensure that there is internal consistency in how you assess and develop current staff, how you reward staff and what you look for in new people to join the team. We are currently working with a services provider to complement the talent identification approaches they already have in place. In some ways, they have been more focused on talent management than other firms due to both organic and acquisitive growth. But their efforts in this area comprise a series of separate activities rather than a holistic approach. We are assisting them to integrate their currently disparate and disconnected approaches to assessment for external searches, for talent development and for appraisal. 3. Identify or create development programs tailored for individual’s need to meet your organisation’s needs Usually the higher you go in organisations, the more individual and specific development programs need to be for individuals and organisations to really benefit. They might include mentoring, perhaps from an individual with a very different background, perhaps from a colleague on the same level, or perhaps some ‘upwards’ mentoring from some Generation Y professionals, especially if your organisation works in consumer-related areas. Development programs could include being part of a team in another part of the organisation, being seconded for 12 months to a new business, a ‘sabbatical’ to pursue a ‘pet project’, or acting as ‘chief of staff’ for one of the executives. It could include a short course at a national business school, or one located elsewhere. There are many possibilities. The key criterion is what is most likely to further develop the capabilities of the individual to contribute to both their success and the success of the business or organisation. Figure 4 below presents on one page a summary of the individual needs of team members (A-J across the top) with the recommended actions. It is also important to act on the fact that this should not be a ‘one off’ exercise: it needs to be part of a continuum of assessment with a clear set of accountabilities for monitoring the implementation the recommended development programs. Figure 3 – Global Company: Building in Agility for New Demands and Capabilities Figure 4 - Identify or create development programs tailored for individuals (and teams) to meet your organisation’s needs © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
7 4. Go external for talent when you have to Organisations that have a strong focus on developing their internal talent tend to have a much more focused approach when they need to recruit externally. They are in tune with the real capabilities that they need, and with the values and cultural attributes they are seeking in external candidates. Their teams have a better ‘shared understanding’ of what they want and need in talent that they are seeking to bring into the organisation. In short, their external recruitment is likely to entail less risk than those who have not focused so much on internal talent management. Succession Planning should now be seen as a basic requirement A further evolution of talent management is having an understanding of the talent pool available for succession at multiple levels in the organisation. While you can never guarantee who should succeed whom and when, an extension to effective development of your talent is mapping the potential trajectory of professionals, managers and executives against incumbents. The goal is to ensure you have a well developing pool of talent to meet succession needs. That pool of talent becomes smaller the higher you go in the organisation, or the more specific and specialised the technical capabilities. One of the major concerns of some organisations today is the ageing and impending retirement of baby boomers and the expertise and experiences they will take with them – though the GFC has deferred the retirement of some of this group due to depletion of their savings. Understanding exactly what stage and age your workforce is at now is a basic requirement, both for managing the workforce today and for managing succession. Figure 5 depicts some different approaches to looking at the current status and challenges of workforce planning and visualizing the availability of future talent. For example some organisations we have worked with take a long term view of their talent looking at employee potential and doing age profiles of their workforce. Figure 5 presents this visually - mapping specific roles against the potential of the individuals in those roles and their likely time to retirement. This is particularly important with organisations with ‘baby boomer’ bulges where they are likely to have significant talent nearing retirement age. Presenting this in a visual form helps them identify their likely talent ‘gaps’ in the short, medium and longer terms. Conscientious talent management is just good management The expectations for effective executives will continue to evolve – as they have for the past 50 years. But the talent bar has been elevated. Companies and their boards are seeking to appoint executives who have the acumen to deal with volatile shifts in their competitiveness while concurrently satisfying shareholders and accommodating regulators. Both business and government are increasingly seeking executives who combine multiple sector experience to work through the often conflicting demands for efficiencies, creativity and meeting citizen expectations. Amidst these expectations we are experiencing accelerated change as technology developments fundamentally alter how organisations operate. Some of the fallout from the GFC is a different level of accountability and different set of expectations of those in the private sector. Higher expectations for executives and their teams, and their criticality to the business have raised the profile and importance of talent management and succession planning. There is no readily obtainable pool of great talent to meet all the needs of business, industry and government – no matter what the state of business, global and local economies. organisations that want to compete successfully both in their business and in the talent marketplace need to ‘know and grow’ the capabilities they have. They need to understand what motivates people, and understand the strategically significant leadership, managerial and technical capabilities that they have and that they need. Figure 5 – Succession planning © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
8 Smart organisations put in place specific strategies to meet the capability and developmental needs of their talent pool and for smooth transitions during successions. They develop programs tailored for individuals to meet the organisation’s future needs, understanding that if individuals believe their capabilities are continuing to be developed by their organisation, they are less likely to want to go elsewhere. Effective Teams are Critical to the Success of CIOs While getting the talent gene pool right is important, challenges don’t stop there. It is critical for executives and managers to work on creating and nurturing a real team rather than a collection of smart and motivated individuals. This requires hard work and is often greatly underestimated. Act on the Five Dysfunctions of Teams While developing and sustaining great teams is hard work, the path to achieving these is reasonably clear. There are some simple approaches to tackle each of the five dysfunctions indicated above. These need to be tackled in turn, starting with building trust, where the leader of the team needs to share their concerns and vulnerabilities with the team. Leading by example is critical is at all stages of team building. Leaders need to mine for conflict, not pretend that it isn’t there and achieve a false notion of harmony. Team meetings need to be used carefully to ensure there is open and transparent discussion and the there is real clarity and closure of issues. People need to be held accountable – by each other – that is the test of really effective team, that each person feels comfortable about holding their colleagues to account. Difficult issues need to be confronted, dealt with and then the team and the individuals need to move on. Taking collective responsibility shows real team maturity – where the individuals are comfortable with both themselves and with each other. The key dysfunctions of teams are well described by Lencioni of The Table Group. It starts with trust: trust amongst team members is the bedrock of effective teams. Without that foundation of trust, it’s hard to deal with conflict in a constructive way. Team members don’t have the necessary commitment, and interpersonal discomfort means that team members won’t hold each other accountable. There is the issue of ‘which team am I on?’. This is a hard decision for, say members of the CIO’s team – it is that team that should be their primary team. At the same time the CIO’s primary team is the executive team of which he or she is a member. The pyramid of team dysfunctions is well depicted in Figure 6 above. Figure 6 – The five common dysfunctions of teams © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies Figure 7 – Enabling Teams to be effective
9 Lessons Learnt: Know and Grow Individual and Team Capabilities Nurturing great talent and building effective teams is a key objective for most leaders. However not everyone tackles it in a pragmatic, constructive and practical way so that it has real impact on the individuals, the team and business. From working with executive teams, there are clear lessons that increase the likelihood of real impact: 1.It’s hard to develop your team if you don’t’ really understand the capabilities, aspirations and motivation of each individual 2.The ability to be an effective team member is also now critical 3.While undertaking individual capability and development needs assessment can be seen as confronting (at least initially), it can be done with real engagement and respect. The benefits are real and are appreciated by individuals as well as the team as a whole 4.It is only when individuals really understand themselves that they are able to reach their full potential as leaders and managers 5.The best starting point is with the top level executives themselves. There is no substitute for leading by example To Keep Talent, Manage it Well Remember, great talent will go to where it is appreciated, valued, and encouraged to thrive. Effective talent management requires taking thoughtful and considered actions today. It’s not something to do next month or next year. By then the ‘talent’ will have walked and it’s very hard to get it back. A version of this Whitepaper is being published in the book Managing IT Human Resources: Considerations for organisations and Personnel edited by Dr. Jerry Luftman, To be published by IGI Global, 2010 © 2010 Arbiter Leadership Technologies
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