Tag Archives: talent management

Australia’s Political Leaders, where are they?

The latest Newspoll (conducted for The Australian newspaper) clearly shows that Tony Abbott and his alternative, Bill Shorten, have both lost popularity with the Australian public. The recently released Reader’s Digest Australia annual Trusted People survey of 2014 listed door-to-door salespeople, politicians, insurance salespeople, sex workers and call centre staff as the least trusted professions in that order. At least Tony and Bill can take some comfort from the fact their unpopularity isn’t just about them, its about their profession as well.

When evaluating CEO’s and their senior management team I review ability from four perspectives, strategic, collaborative, inspirational and achievement.

When considering Tony and Bill’s strategic ability is it in the context of what is best for Australia or how they stay in/get in power? All we seem to hear from an opposition party (the current opposition and their predecessors) is negative, for example both have played the broken promises line very consistently. This constant sniping is at best tactical and is certainly not strategic. What is our big picture vision, what are we trying to be? Can either Bill or Tony answer this?

Collaborative ability is hard to assess without seeing how Tony and Bill work with others, internally and eternally to their own party’s.

Inspirational ability. A leader will not inspire you unless you trust them, why would anyone want to follow someone they don’t trust. The results of the Reader’s Digest Australia annual Trusted People survey would suggest both leaders and their colleagues are short of the mark in this aspect of leadership.

Achievement ability. This is strategy implementation. This is not about agreeing with the action, for example raising the retirement age to 70 is an action regardless if it is a good strategy or not. It would be an interesting case study to list the major actions either party has taken in the last three years. Further more it would be worthwhile noting which of these actions have impacted marginal seats.

Australia is crying out for political leaders who have a big picture view for Australia and not just their own power; leaders who work well with our neighbors while ensuring alignment with our own needs, leaders who have the strength of character to stand by their beliefs and deserve our respect if not always our agreement and leaders who strive for action that is driven by a overarching direction and not the ballot box.

Simon Tedstone

Director, Leading Change Consulting



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Billable hours, the not so Holy Grail of professional service firms

When monthly billable hours are up everyone is happy, especially the partners. Managers and staff who are billable high performers are the ones that get ahead; they are the firm’s high potentials. Over many years and in several countries we have seen this across numerous firms. When this focus on billable hours becomes dominant we have also seen the following problems that have resulted in poor financial performance and even the demise of a firm.

  1. Who does the work? Partners, and senior associates, in order to meet their own billable hours targets, are doing work that is below them, they are doing work that should be performed by more junior staff. This is detrimental to staff development and even more crucially firm profitability.
  2. Short term client focus.       There is more concern for next month’s billable hours than next years. This can lead to customer relationships being more transactional and transient in nature, in todays more competitive landscape this is a flashing red light for many firms.
  3. Siloed mentality. Partners and managers have little practical or intellectual concern for the firm as a whole instead focussing solely on their own division. In this case the firm exists only to provide some administrative economies of scale for its divisions that then operate as independent business units.

There is no dispute that billable hours are important, however billable hours will only ever be a lag measure. The most successful firms are the ones that focus on next years clients and how best to meet their needs. There are two keys actions they take to do this.

Talent and succession management. They develop and promote partners who can think strategically, work collaboratively and inspire their key stakeholder to achieve great things together. One firm we have worked with to achieve this went from being a top 20 English firm to a top five global firm over a 10 year period.

Client focus. They develop a real value for clients and all things relating to client needs in the immediate to mid and long term. Managers and staff are empowered to make decisions that benefit their clients. Client’s needs are anticipated so solutions thinking is pro rather than reactive.

In todays environment firms that focus on having the best client focused leadership will succeed ahead of their competitors. Firms in the mid tier that are large enough to have critical mass but smaller enough to be flexible are in the best position to do this. All too often it is also these mid tier firms that are most likely to fall into the short term billable hours trap.

By Simon Tedstone

Director – Leading Change Consulting

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Talent Management – the fun side

Talent Management is very serious stuff; when managers and HR discuss talent they always have their extra serious faces on. They are, after all, considering the future of both individuals and the organisation as a whole, so it is worth taking seriously. They pour over work based information and high potential assessment reports (way too many of which are on-line self assessments, but that’s a story for another time) and try to draw conclusions about who is and is not talent.

There is a fun, fascinating and incredibly rewarding side to talent management, it is the reason I work in talent management. Talent management is all about unlocking the potential of people and as a result their organisation. Only a very small minority of employees have nothing more to offer. The trick to the best talent management is how to work with employees to find out what their talent is and how best to grow and leverage it. Talent management is about “win win” relationships between employers and employees.

Talent Management is viewed too simply; it is not about who is good, i.e. high potential and who is not. Neither is it about simply viewing talent against role seniority.

Talent management is about employees understanding their preferences and motivations (something on line self assessments are excellent for) as well as their strengths and weaknesses (no one is perfect). This information is then used to inform the relationship between employer and employee so both can progress in a mutually beneficial direction. This may mean, for example, they consider moving sideways rather than up or becoming a technical expert rather than a general manager. At times, it may also mean employees realise it is time to move on to a new organisation. Some may consider this a risk but it is far better for an employer and employee relationship to end through talent management than performance management.

Talent management is fun, interesting and exciting because it is about unlocking potential and creating a mutually beneficial relationship for all.

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Do senior leaders collaborate?

Yesterday I had the misfortune of seeing 10 minutes of question time in Federal Parliament. This, very definitely, is not something I normally do. One side puts a perspective forward amid much over yelling from the other side, the speaker tries, with little success, to ensure the message is heard and then the questions, or should I say accusations start. So these are our most senior leaders at work, depressing I thought. The objective was to compete rather than collaborate.

Is this the same with senior leaders in the business world? At least in parliament everyone is open about being on different sides. In business what percentage of a senior leaders time is spent protecting their own brand, undermining the brand of others and then actually working on the needs of the business?

It is a fine line between being politically savvy in order to achieve business needs versus being politically savvy just to achieve ones own needs. Again the answer lies in the motivation of our leaders. Do they want to climb the ladder simply to be powerful or do they want to get to the top so they are in the best position to make a positive difference?

Both in business and in politics too often we fail to consider the motivations of our leaders. No one wants to be led, especially in challenging times, by someone who puts themselves, and their survival/success first. Yes you need driven people who are motivated by success to drive performance. However if a leader puts their own needs and aspirations ahead of the company, sooner or later, they are going to make a decision that has significant ramifications for the company and the more senior the leader the more catastrophic those ramifications can be. In my experience those leaders who put themselves above the company also have a knack of moving onto to their next role before things go bang.

Therefore find out what motivates your up and coming leaders and weed out those who put themselves before the company. No single leader has all the answers, make sure your senior leaders operate as the sum of their intellectual parts and don’t behave like a bunch of politicians.

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