Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Talent and the rest of us!

Talent and the rest of us!

Rachel Burnham writes: There was a lot of talk over the course of Wimbledon about ‘Talent’ and how best to manage it.  I have a confession – I hate the term ‘Talent’ and how it is often used in HR.  Clearly there are people with great talent – top tennis players come to mind, I have had the experience of working with some fabulous managers and I had the great pleasure of watching the undoubtedly talented Wynton Marsalis play the trumpet a couple of weeks ago at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall.

What I dislike is the use of the term ‘Talent’ to refer to the ‘few’ within an organisation, in contrast to the rest of us – those of us who are doing the ‘grunt’ work – the great unwashed.

Notice who I identify with.  Not from any sense of false modesty.  I know have days when I am truly on form and in flow.  I can be spectacular at what I do.  When I am in rapport with the people I am working with.  When I am listening hard & well.  When the right questions come to mind.  When I listen to my heart and my head. When I whizz through the paperwork with focus & determination.

But, I also have days when I am really rather pedestrian.  When I talk too much.  When I am unfocused.  When I am a bit grumpy.  And when I am mean-spirited.  Fortunately, not usually all at the same time!  

I have worked hard over the years to enable me to be spectacular more of the time.  

And I have found ways to raise my own personal standards & skills, so that even on the not so great days, I can still be very good.

High performing organisations depend upon high performance, day in day out, by a great many people in all sorts of roles.  So why focus our attention only on the ‘few’?   Why have a performance management system as some organisations do, that insists on identifying a set percentage of people as under-performing? 

This kind of approach doesn’t fit with my experience of the huge potential that we all have within us – though I acknowledge that sometimes this can be well hidden!  The idea of the ‘few’ talented doesn’t sit well with my values - politically nor spiritually.

So much of what we look at in HR and L&D is about enabling people, so why adopt language and processes that implicitly write off most people?  Why not work to enable everyone to perform spectacularly, more of the time?

Rachel Burnham
9 July 2014

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

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