Posts Tagged ‘Talent’

The Fergie Factor: A Disruptive Force

Posted on: May 14th, 2013 by admin-kablooey No Comments 26 years in charge of Manchester United Alex Ferguson has finally decided to take life a little easier by moving to a new role as a Director and Ambassador for the club. At 71 years of age he wants to move on, he is not as healthy as he used to be and is probably finding it tough to continue his punishing regime, especially when he is in need of a hip replacement operation. He will be aware of his own mortality and will have memories of being by the side of his mentor, the then Scotland manager Jock Stein when he died on the touchline during an international match from a heart attack.

Along the way he has become recognised as the most successful British football manager ever and arguably the world’s greatest. He is a true leader in his field both in achievement and the way he has gone about it. In his managerial career he has won 49 trophies in 39 seasons, including two Champions’ League titles. He has kept Manchester United the top performing team in the Premier League for 20 years, seeing off the challenges of tactician Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, the charisma of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and the vast wealth of Manchester City. While other teams have constantly made managerial changes in the pursuit for glory, Ferguson has remained the captain of the United ship. The once great Liverpool of the 70’s and 80’s are a poor shadow of itself today after a host of poor performing managers with the failures of Graeme Souness still being felt today.

The question has to be how has he done it for so long and so consistently? Those that would like to knock his achievements will point to how his first years at United were not fruitful, that he inherited the Golden Generation of Butt, the Nevilles, Beckham, Giggs ,Scholes and the wealth of United would make anyone succeed. So let’s have a look at how he has done it.

Something that we talk about a lot in TomorrowToday are Disruptive factors in a business. Alex Ferguson was certainly a disruptive factor; he had already proven this in Scotland by upsetting the domination of Rangers and Celtic in Scotland whilst managing Aberdeen. When he arrived at United in 1986 things weren’t quite how he had hoped: the previous manager Ron Atkinson had spent all the money on dubious signings and the Edwards family were looking for a buyer and needed to re-fill the coffers. Ferguson systematically sold most of the players that Atkinson had brought in and United went from a pre-tax loss of £930K in season 87/88 to a profit of over £2 million in 88/89. Utimately the sale fell through, but this gave Ferguson the opportunity to spend time on his youth system, which he passionately believes in. Even though Ferguson was born in 1942 and would be considered to be from the Silent Generation he has great insight and respect from the then young Generation X development players. He went about nurturing them, caring for them and protecting them. He has many times been referred to as a father figure and continues to understand the Generation Y players that he has recently developed. He recognised the talent and went about keeping them. He made sure that they had good contracts, were well paid and looked after. The ensured the talent would have no desire to leave. He did however bring in tough rules that were to be broken at their peril; if they wanted the softer Gen X values, they would have to put up with the tough Silent Generation values of duty, discipline and dedication. Regardless of their stature, if they went against Ferguson’s values they would be subjected to the famous “hairdryer” and found themselves leaving the club regardless of who they were. Just ask Jaap Stam and David Beckham, respectively the world’s best defender at the time and the Golden Boy of English football. He insisted on being called Mr Ferguson or the Boss. He would show great loyalty to players and staff, but it would be according to his rules. By 1989 the chequebook was opened up to him and he brought in a host of talent to complement his budding stars.

He understood that if he were to pay top wages to keep and attract talent it would result in a better league position. A higher league position would result in increased annual revenue and then the cycle would begin again.

He has turned a provincial club with an annual turnover of about £7 million in 1986 to an International Superstar with a turnover of £320 million. He has attracted a host of footballing star talent to the club; Cantona, Keane, Ferdinand, Ronaldo and recently Van Persie. He has retained Giggs, Gary Neville and Scholes for their whole professional playing careers. He has inspired a host of former players to go into management – Robson, Hughes, Bruce, Coppell, Keane, Ince, Kanchelskis and the new Scotland manager Gordon Strachan to name a few.

What he has done is truly remarkable and of course there has to be an element of luck in it, but to have remained top of his chosen profession for over 20 years is outstanding He has done it through foresight, planning, understanding, professionalism, recognising talent, hard work and outstanding leadership. These were the Disruptive Factors of Ferguson that he brought into football.

What are the Disruptive factors that you should be looking at in your business sector that are going to change the way you work and operate? Understand these and you too could be the next Ferguson. Ignore them and you could be the next Graeme Souness.

Identifying Talent In A Knowledge Economy?

Posted on: April 19th, 2011 by admin-kablooey No Comments

Identifying Talent is a top priority in any organistion today. Daniel Pink, in his TED talk on The Surprising Science of Motivation, suggests the most valuable people in a knowledge economy organizations are the people thinking about solutions to to questions we haven’t even discovered / asked yet. I’m not sure that’s possible, but it certainly describes the sort of person we should be identifying, developing and holding onto.

But how do we do that accurately in a knowledge economy? Peter Drucker weighs in with:

“Evaluating the performance of knowledge workers is an almost impossible task, as much of their work takes place inside of their heads.”

In a paper by Eoin Whelan, from the University of Limerick, titled ‘It’s Whom You Know Not What You Know: A Social Network Analysis Approach to Talent Management‘, he suggests that performance appraisals are the most commonly used mechanisms to identify A-Players, and yet evidence that points to the deficiencies of such metrics is plentiful in supply. He suggests at least two reasons:

For example, individual appraisals can lead to an over emphasis on individual performance which undermines teamwork and has the potential to create destructive internal competition (Pfeffer, 2001). Likewise, there is much evidence which confirms rater bias in performance appraisals. Employees who share similarities with their supervisor tend to receive higher ratings (Tsui et al., 2002) and are more likely to receive promotions (Wakabayashi et al.,1988). For these reasons, it has been argued that the use of such metrics are problematic when applied to the management of talented people (Makela et al., 2010, Mellahi and Collings, 2010, Gladwell, 2002).

But what if it’s not what lies inside that counts? What if talent has more to do with relationships someone has, and the position they occupy in the networks they belong to? If there is some truth to this, it would require a completely different approach and set of tools to measure and identify talent.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) would be one such tool. Wikipedia has the following to say in defining SNA:

Social networks have also been used to examine how organizations interact with each other, characterizing the many informal connections that link executives together, as well as associations and connections between individual employees at different organizations. For example, power within organizations often comes more from the degree to which an individual within a network is at the center of many relationships than actual job title. Social networks also play a key role in hiring, in business success, and in job performance.




Of course it’s not as simple as the above paragraph. Work needs to be done to properly understand any network you examine and the roles of the individuals within those networks. SNA allows us to understand better how a network responds to the individuals within it and visa versa.

Perhaps a useful and popular platform to illustrate this is FaceBook. When analyzing one of your connection’s (aka Friend) network you can see who has connected with them, how many people, and perhaps even get a sense of why they have made the connection? The real world is different to the digital world in this regard. We are less likely to ‘Friend’ people we don’t find useful or interesting to us in the real world. What our connections have to say about us, or the amount of energy we give or take-away from them, or whether they use us to find solutions for their projects or not does say much about who we are.

I am often astounded at the results SNA delivers when working with a team of people. I have always been surprised at how much information can be gathered from an often very simple process. I certainly think SNA is an under-utilised tool for identifying talent. It draws on the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ and gets away from the subjectivity often attached to deciding who is and isn’t talent?

It does come with risks, which is possibly why it’s not employed more often:

  • It can cut fairly deep and deliver some robust insight to individuals and the team. Courage is often needed to embark on an SNA journey.
  • It shifts control and responsibility from manager/leader to the voice of the group, and may possibly include difficult feedback for said manager/leader.

Whatever the reason it’s not used more, it’s a much needed tool in the identification of talent in any organisation.

I’ve been talent managed!

Posted on: December 2nd, 2010 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

I’ve just had to update my profile on the new TomorrowToday website as my role within the company is changing from a client manager / sales position to an operational one.

As I was updating my profile I realized that I’m coming up for 3 years working with TomorrowToday.  If any of our readers have heard Barrie presenting on ‘Talent” you’ll know he talks to companies generally not being able to hold on to Generation X for more than 2 to 3 years before they move on – not because they’re unhappy, but because that’s what us Gen Xers do.

We also know that just because a Gen X has had a very successful 2 years in your marketing department, but that this doesn’t mean that they’ll stick with marketing as a career path – in fact chances are their next position will be completely unrelated and you’ll find them in the IT department, as the social media consultant or the heading up a call centre in India next.

In his presentation, Barrie goes on to suggest that because you are armed with this information on Gen X’s behaviour that one suggestion is for companies to rather create a position within their company for the Gen X who would be moving on looking for a new adventure regardless.

So… I’m wondering whether the fact that I’m a Gen X and that I’ve been with TomorrowToday for almost 3 years has got anything to do with a new position being created for me? Have they just talent managed me without me even realizing. Just goes to show – whether it’s been a conscience decision or not – these guys don’t just talk the talk, but put into action their advice for other companies. Keeps me happy!

Calling out to those connecting to – and connected to – call centres

Posted on: October 20th, 2010 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

“Call centres are the electronic assembly lines of the new economy” – Phil Jennings, Union Network International

The last few months have been a busy and exciting time for Tomorrow Training. We have been up to a lot of good things, which have been really fun and educational and so it is not always easy to decide what to talk about. But after some deliberation I have decided to talk about call centres, since they are such a prominent part of how we do business today.

Call centres became widely used in South Africa in the 1980s although one could argue they have their origins in the humble ‘telephone exchange’, which was used in South Africa even up until the 1960s. Their wide-spread use, globally, coincided with the quickly emergent Computer and IT industries, as companies needed to set up ‘support centres’ or ‘HelpDesks’ as they came to be known. These centres promptly came to be seen as useful in promoting efficiency for communication between the inside and outside of the business. To a large extent, they really have changed the face of how companies interact with their clients or customers (although the use of social media is now becoming increasingly popular in some sectors). Essentially the need for call centres rose out of massive and relatively fast population growth globally, increased competition, and a major increase in the volume of activity necessitating communication between big organisations and their clients. Simultaneously, conglomerates were being developed, multi-national corporations became more widespread and mergers, both national and international, took place.  So much so that in South Africa in the mid-1980s about 500 people were employed as call centre agents. However, it was in the 1990s that call centres really ‘took off’ in South Africa with companies like M-Net (later to become MultiChoice), Eskom, ABSA Bank, Standard Bank and First National Bank pioneering this sector.  Today there are about 150 000 people employed in call centres across South Africa (although the majority are in Gauteng); and this sector is currently one of the fastest growing economic sectors in South Africa, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. (more…)

What if Lance Armstrong wanted YOUR job?

Posted on: September 6th, 2010 by admin-kablooey 4 Comments

This is a question (What if Lance Armstrong wanted YOUR job?) I ask the participants of the Talent Management day I do around 40 times each year (for the past 4 years) with one of our clients, for their senior managers.

I ask this question during the section in which we explore what talent looks like? What talent looks like is an interesting exploration. Interesting because the answers are as diverse as the people you ask it to. Some say talent is inherent (and often add ‘you’re born with it’ as if to really make the point), others say it’s something you can develop, and then there’s a third group who suggest it’s a bit of both.

Most people, however, when pushed a little will admit that if Lance Armstrong wanted their specific job, even if he had very little experience, skill and natural ability to do it, would be a major threat to them within a 5 year period. The reason they conclude this, is because he has a significant and impressive track record of working hard, pushing the boundaries and going to places within himself most of us just aren’t prepared to go. It immediately challenges most people’s paradigm that ‘talent’ is something you have to be really good at, have a passion for, or even enjoy in a fundamental structural kind of way. It highlights the impact that hard work and determination plays, and really means that, in most human endeavors, if we want it bad enough and are prepared to put in the hard yards, we can quite possibly achieve our goal.

Sir Ken Robinson, in his well known talk, ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?‘, alludes to this near the begining when describing a young girl who performed at the TED conference he addresses, says something to effect of,

“She’s exceptional, but I don’t think she’s exceptional in the whole of childhood. What you have there is a person with extraordinary DEDICATION who FOUND a talent.”

I think it’s important to have this conversation within the current ‘war for talent’ debate, simply because we so often restrict and narrow the pool we look for talent within, because we have a view of talent that we’ve not fully interrogated. We run the risk of not noticing those with incredible dedication and commitment, simply because they don’t exhibit the qualities we’ve come to believe talented people should exhibit. I’m certainly not suggesting that we get rid of everything we believe talent to be, and do a major overhaul. I think much of what we believe talent to be is valid, but I do think we need to expand our paradigms and acknowledge that there are other incredibly important dimensions that we so often overlook, and even possibly should rather focus on?


5 Practical steps to retain Talent

Posted on: April 14th, 2010 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

During 2009 I was asked by a client to come to a meeting where they were going to discuss how to build a better Employee Value Proposition (EVP), to stem the tide of an exiting younger workforce. Retention was their goal, and a great goal it is in today’s changing working environment. Most organisations that I have worked with are all dealing with higher churn rates in their organisation. Their employees are staying for less and less time. Across the board.

The worrying part of the meeting was the lack of thought, in my opinion, that had gone into building a systemic view of their new EVP. It was almost as if the EVP had taken center stage, instead of seeing it as simply step 1 in a long process. Designing an EVP is a very different animal to implementing one. Changing your EVP sends ripples (both good and bad) throughout the entire organisation. The change required in some areas is significant. Changing your EVP shouldn’t be taken lightly in my opinion. It’s one of those things you do only when you have to, and when you have to, you make sure it’s robust enough to last you a very long time.

In an attempt to add value to this discussion I’d like to suggest 5 practical steps an organisation should think through in the process of building an organisation that is better able to retain today’s workforce.


PodCast Update – Trends shaping business in the next few years

Posted on: April 9th, 2010 by admin-kablooey No Comments

We’ve just added a new PodCast to the TomorrowToday feed. It features a conversation between Dean van Leeuwen and Graeme Codrington about some trends facing business during the next few years.

Amongst other things, they talk about talented companies as opposed to talented individuals and ‘what happens after what come next’, a look at 5 trends that have been accelerated by the economic crisis we’re emerging from.

If you’d like to listen to this audio track please click on the following:

Free video course on Managing Generation Y at work

Posted on: January 6th, 2010 by Graeme Codrington No Comments

In December 09, Graeme Codrington recorded a series of short videos on Managing Generation Y at Work. This was done with in London. These videos are now available for free:

The videos are:

You may also find value in a four minute introduction to our “Mind the Gap” programme for managing multinational and multicultural teams. You will find it here.

Feel free to use these videos in your companies. But, if you’d like more details or have one of our team speak live at your next event, why not contact us and make a booking enquiry.