Adopt a Talent Mind-Set

Adopt a talent mind-set includes the following approaches:
Managers who coach and develop
Mentoring and sponsorship
Objective hiring, performance reviews, and promotion
Challenging job assignments

One of the most effective ways to advance both men and women is to adopt an overall talent mind-set. This translates into actively considering the abilities of the people in an organization and making work assignments with an eye toward challenging them and allowing them to continue to grow professionally.

Succession Planning/Talent Identification
Leaders should engage in a robust discussion to identify talent at least once a year. To set the stage for an effective talent conversation, it is essential that leaders agree on the capabilities people must master in order for the organization to achieve its goals. These capabilities provide the criteria for talent conversations, as well as for objective hiring and promotion policies and practices.

With business/organization needs as a driver, leader peer groups often discuss the talent at lower levels with an eye toward the future. They endeavor to do the following:

  • Determine who has the potential to continue to advance and possibly become a future leader, often referred to a high-potential employee, or “HIPO”;
  • Brainstorm developmental assignments (for example, projects and job rotations) that provide the organization with fresh perspectives and employees with opportunities to sharpen their learning edge;
  • Agree on shared approaches to mentoring talent, such as agreeing to mentor a colleague’s direct report who is interested in another leader’s area of responsibility; and
  • Identify those who are not a good fit for the organization.

“My firm uses a nine-box model with performance on the horizontal axis and potential on the vertical axis—high, medium, and low for each—to map each person in our firm,” one leader said. “We push each other to make sure we are being fair with respect to all aspects of diversity as we discuss our talent.” An output of this process is an agreed-upon list of individuals who have demonstrated that they have the potential to handle greater challenges, and the leaders review the list with an eye toward creating a diverse pool. Those individuals on this high-potential list are considered when choice assignments and opportunities for promotions arise.

One C-level man said, “We’ve all agreed that we want senior leadership at our company to be as diverse as our customer base. We are pushing each other to consider less-obvious candidates for both projects and new open positions.”

He added that while members of the executive team are committed to putting the best talent in the most visible and demanding roles, they also are challenging each other to think about a broader, more diverse pool of candidates. “This process also reminds us to seek a diverse set of candidates when we are hiring externally,” he said. Thus, having objective hiring policies and practices in place is foundational for the talent-evaluation process to yield a diverse pool of HIPOs.

As part of the talent-review process, leaders often agree to mentor (provide advice) and sponsor (advocate for at senior levels) high-potential future leaders who report to their colleagues.

The talent process, in conjunction with making visible and challenging assignments available, can help drive home for all managers that coaching and developing their direct reports is an essential part of their job.

Challenge Future Leaders to Create Individual Development Plans
Development plans for individuals can use several of these approaches together to create a road map for career advancement. “I asked my bosses to sit down with me and as clearly as possible describe exactly what I needed to demonstrate to be made a principal in the firm,” said one women. She took the lead in mapping out the experiences she would need to have and results she would need to achieve in order to advance to the principal level. “This was a challenging conversation because the principles rely on me to fill my current role, and to think of me moving out of it creates a gap we will need to fill.”

She now has a career development plan in place and is seeking to gain the agreed-upon experiences in order to show she is ready for the next level of responsibility.