Monthly Archives: October 2013

When You’re Sinking, not Syncing: Tips for Managing Talent

Next week you have a new trainee assigned to you.  But it’s Monday morning at 10am, you’re already drowning in emails, and interruptions are knocking on the door to distract from your marathon of to-do’s.  There must be a better way to utilize your talented trainees, get the job done, and enjoy your mentorship.  Consider these guidelines below and enjoy reading about Anna, a talented employee in scenario 1 (manager sinking) and 2 (manager syncing).

Guideline for Managers to Keep Talent

Create productive and innovative conditions for development

  • Provide stretch assignments that balance skill with challenge:  If an assignment lacks challenge, it will move the employee toward boredom.  However if the assignment has too much challenge without the necessary skill, it will create anxiety.  If there is the right balance, then excitement and flow develop.Flow graph
  • Give permission to make mistakes – most is learnt from failure and failure often stimulates deeper creativity
  • Focus and role model what is important vs. only urgent directives
  • Provide appreciation and feedback – acknowledge a job well done, give a chance to speak without interruption, continue treating people with respect vs. “inferior”

Create mutual understanding for communication e.g.:

  • Regularly meeting to review during project lifetime vs. only at the end
  • Face to face feedback vs. written
  • Discuss and consult vs. “tell, announce”

Create clear mutual expectations

  • Discuss upfront what goals are
  • Provide role description parameters (“you are leading/and responsible” or facilitating, learning and manager is responsible”)
  • Indicate what standard of performance is expected


Burntout on Patch NewAnna is in the middle of a frustrating boring repetitive project assigned to her by her manager. Anna sees her manager rushing through the department and runs to catch up with him.

Anna: Do you have a second – I just want to ask you something?

Manager: I have exactly two minutes – go!

Anna: The client phoned me complaining about some new contractor and I don’t know what to do with it or what she is talking about

Manager: Don’t worry about that. The new contractor is better. I’ll deal with the client later. By the way I sent you another database to sort through from last years project.

Anna: Ok… well… are you sure I shouldn’t go back to the client? And you want me to look at the database?

Manager: Anna that client is impossible to please. I have the overview in mind and here’s what I want you to do: tell her to phone me next time. Sorry, got to go…

Anna… ”What am I doing here…?”

Scenario 2

Philisophy3Anna is in the middle of an interesting project. At their usual Friday walk-about meeting her manager checks in with her and how the project is going:

Manager: Anna how is the project going?

Anna: It’s really interesting but I have some questions about the update you sent me.

Manager: Oh good, I was wondering if you are finding it challenging or if you were being held up in certain areas.

Anna: Yeah it’s ok. I see they changed the scope of the project, and thanks for sending the directive. It’s just that I don’t know how to go back to the client and explain our change in direction. I don’t want to come across confused and totally inexperienced.

Manager: It’s really good that you took the initiative to include the customer on this one – we should do that more often. I think you can tell the client that we changed contractors because we wanted more sophisticated technology for better efficiencies. This is inline with our strategic directive to work smarter and migrate to the best technology.

Anna: Yeah I’m really interest in that too – I worked with a lot of different technologies during my studies. Where can I get more information on where we are heading with that?

Manager: There is a companywide webinar steaming at 15h00 EST you can sign up for?

Anna: Let me see…No I have a family dinner – but `I can just get the recording right?

Manager: Yes of course

How managers help to get rid of top talent:

Thumbs Down

  • Over evaluation
  • Make them feel like ‘a cog in the wheel’
  • Don’t provide opportunities to leverage skills and talents
  • Disconnect from the purpose and vision of the organization
  • Sustain a fear culture or ‘walking on eggs’
  • Over react to mistakes or failures or personally stress about your own
  • Tell and inform vs. request and discuss
  • Be rigid vs. open and more flexible
  • Focus on urgent vs. important
  • Lack of appreciation

How to keep top talent and utilize their contribution:

Thumbs up

  • Connected people to the company direction as well as fostering a sense of belong (connection to the people)
  • Value both work satisfaction and life satisfaction
  • Utilize the new energy and enthusiasm injected in to the system
  • Appreciate and stimulate fresh ideas and innovation spin off
  • Use it as opportunity to dust off the cobwebs – important tasks or projects can be resurrected and completed
  • Free up yourself as managers through delegation
  • Ensure rapid development of talent value add
  • Achieve more with less effort
  • Enable talented employees to tap into the wisdom and context of experienced
  • Increase productivity and innovation through inclusion and feedback

And for the next generation of leadership, here are tips on how to make your contribution too:

Guideline to young talent


Step up to the plate

  • Show your team and manager what you’ve got: do the hard work and deliver results with your projects, showing your value to the team
  • Find ways to enhance your self understanding and clarify what you want to achieve
  • Review weekly your tasks, projects, loose ends and get your self re-organized so you can strategically focus and know where you are going
  • Evaluate: even if no one else is evaluating and giving you feedback, take the time to evaluate projects yourself.

Take the initiative

  • Let your manager and team know specifically how to guide you in achieving your growth goals.
  • Communicate often with managers about your challenges, career goals, feedback and needs.
  • Communicate often with managers to get to know their needs and expectations for projects, your role, etc.
  • When you don’t know, take the first step to figure it out.
  • Seek out mentors from inside or outside your organization who can continue to provide valuable insights personally and within your industry
  • Create networks of other young talent
  • Continue learning: on the job, from research, read books, look online… keep yourself developing


Written by: Emma & Mads

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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Business

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