We’ve lost count of the hours we’ve witnessed well-meaning leaders decide into which box different team members belong, so they can decide who to have “tough” conversations with and where the “real” talent lies so they can do special things for them.

Talent development in competitive environments

In a high performance world, leaders are obsessed (in a healthy way) with making sure that everyone’s talent is developed to the fullest possible extent, not just those in the top right-hand boxes.

Everyone is on a talent development programme because everyone has the responsibility to make the most of their talent. In high performance cultures, people make sure they are developing their talent fully, even if they’re not on a special programme because talent development is a behaviour, not an event.

You can be world-class talent and not have “learning agility” where such agility refers to the ability to do different jobs for the organisation. We suspect few would think that Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t have talent worth developing because he wanted to stay in the same job for 20 years.

If they did think that a) they were wrong and b) they wouldn’t have told him anyway.

What about people who don’t have any talent you want?

Well, they probably shouldn’t be working for you anymore and if you’re a leader who has a long track record of having lots of people who don’t have the talent your organisation needs, then you should probably have a word with yourself along with whoever is doing your recruiting.

And tough conversations? In the world of high performance, coaches have important conversations that are focused on helping people get better at doing their jobs – so often the toughest conversations are with the most talented people, not just the problem children.

Signals and transparency matter

Naturally, in times of scarce resources (recession) or particular focus (bids) you might choose to apply a disproportionate amount of your resources on those in the team who are going to play a key part in winning.

When you do, do so explicitly and with a clear understanding for everyone that it remains their responsibility to be developing their talent in every way they can.

Get in touch if you want to know more.