As a coach, one of the more frequent areas of improvement for most leaders I find is in how they manage talent. Specifically, in allocation of time, resources, and sheer emotional energy – who should get how much of it? I have never coached a leader who had too much time on their hands. The function of their role involves a tremendous amount of multitasking and comes with pressure and stress. So it is easy to let managing of talent to become a secondary priority and reactive one at best. Here is a way to streamline managing talent.
Write down the names of the folks on your team that you are responsible for. First, put 1-5 asterisks against names of people that consume a good bit of your time, resources, and emotional energy with one being least, and 5 being most. Next, give each one an A, B, and C ranking. This is entirely subjective and based on your interaction with each one, no matter how limited that may be. In an ideal scenario, you will have a typical bell curve with a few A and C players, with mostly B players on your team and you are likely to see that C and B players having most of the asterisks. In other words, it is typical for you to be spending more time with average or underperformers than it is with your high performers. This is the default talent management strategy in most organizations and a very poor one.
How to change that? Abdicate your C players to HR. Let them know they are your low performers and they have anywhere from 90 days to 6 months to improve or be let go. Period. This group adds little value, decreases overall team productivity and consumes an unforgivable amount of management time. This group should not be your focus and you should resist the urge to get involved in their development or exit strategy. Let your HR folks handle the nuances of their performance plan and exit. Your B players should also not be your responsibility. Abdicate this role to your direct reports, or their managers or A players. You should rely on these folks to tell you when and how to manage the B team and should never be more than 25% of your talent development time. These are folks that you need on your team, can be developed, and some will be your future A players. It is your A players that you should be spending the remainder 75% of your time with one explicit goal – retention. Do whatever it takes to keep them on your team, and help remove barriers for them. A players are a rare commodity and often get the least attention.
Use this strategy to streamline your limited time managing your talent and you are likely to see your own performance improve.