If your organization operates on a calendar fiscal year you've likely completed all of the heavy lifting required to put your strategic plan in place for 2014. All that's left now is for you to execute on the plan that you've spent the past couple of months sweating over. There are two components that lead to the ability to execute on a plan. The first is coaching (otherwise known as performance management) and the second is the talent you have available to you. Assuming you can coach, the big question you have to answer is whether or not you've got the necessary talent in the organization to be able to make good on the promises that are contained in that document you’re willing to sign off on.

Experience has shown that a major strategic planning gap is often the growth expectations that are embodied by top line revenue growth. For many organizations lofty projections top line revenue projections are supported by nothing more than increased headcount. If you’ve convinced yourself that it is just a numbers game you’re likely in for a rude awakening. In the words of Rick Page, hope is not a strategy. The likelihood of a team of Clydesdale’s that are suited for farming turning into a team of thoroughbreds capable of hunting between now and next year is slim indeed. So what’s a sales leader to do?

Talent mapping has become a significant differentiator between the leaders and the rest of the pack. In this hyper-competitive business environment a talent inventory is an extremely powerful tool for getting the right people in the right places as the right time. The goal is to acquire and retain the most productive employees and remove lower performers. The most important forecasts are for those positions and skills that will be central to the organization’s intended strategic direction. If you’re projecting top line revenue growth clearly the capability of your sales team is going to have significant strategic impact. Jim Robbins, the former president and CEO of Cox Communications, put it this way: “We spend four months of the year on the budget process, but we hardly spend any time talking about our talent, our strengths and how to leverage them, our talent needs and how to build them. Everyone is held accountable for their budget, but no one is held accountable for the strength of their talent pool. Isn’t it the talent we have in each unit that drives our results? Aren’t we missing something?”

Understanding the knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for success in any role has really become the table stakes in the game of poker that is taking place when it comes to acquiring, retaining and developing the talent that you and your organization needs. A strong case has already been made that understanding and aligning the behaviours that support those KSA’s are important for every role in the organization. When it comes to the strategic roles for your organization (like sales and leadership), it is also critical to understand mental acuity and emotional intelligence.

Great coaches have ways of plugging the right people into the right roles and using systems that set them up for success. If you capture behavioural information from a pre-employment assessment do you continue to use that information to support the following?

  • Coaching
  • Development
  • Building effective teams
  • Succession management

If your organization doesn’t capture behavioural, cognitive or emotional intelligence data with respect to the most strategic roles in your organization, you are really relying on judgements that started being formed within the first 100 milliseconds of meeting every member of your team. In their 2006 study, Todorov and Willis found that trait judgments based on trait inferences from facial appearance were highly reliable. The reliability scores from three different study groups were .97, .96, and .95 for attractiveness; .94, .91, and .89 for likeability; .92, .92, and .92 for trustworthiness; .85, .91, and .96 for competence; and .87, .75, and .89 for aggressiveness.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m putting my name on a strategic plan for 2014 I want to base the talent assessment for my team and organization on more than a 100ms exchange someone had with a candidate. What about the interview you say? Don’t forget that Hunter and Hunter determined that as a predictor of performance the interview was .19 reliable. Makes you think doesn’t it? When was the last time you took a talent inventory for your team or organization?


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