Three Ways to Recognize a Talent Magnet

Anthony Tjan10:03 AM Wednesday February 9, 2011
By Tsun-yan Hsieh with Anthony Tjan

  1. They outrecruit their own competence.
  2. They seek real diversity of talent.
  3. They maintain a holistic view of where the very best talents are in their fields.

 

(Tsun-yan Hsieh is working with Anthony Tjan and Richard Harrington on a book about entrepreneurship and building businesses. He is chairman of LinHart Group, a firm specialized in CEO leadership, and is a member of Cue Ball’s advisory group, the Cue Ball Collective.)

Talent rules. Changing a business plan is easier than discovering and developing the top talent to make that change happen. Recognizing this, more and more boards and investors are asking the question: How good is our leader in attracting the very best talent out there?

Our most recent blog post discussed the six habits of a talent magnet. In it, we shared what we have learned from watching and talking to the CEOs and entrepreneurs who consistently attract and retain the very best human capital. This time around, we look at how boards, investors, employees, and others can recognize such talent magnets when they see them.

Leaders who are exceptional at attracting talent live by the following three principles:

•    They outrecruit their own competence. The best leaders always surround themselves with people who are not just equal to but better than they are. Strong leaders will have the inner confidence in themselves, and their collective team’s potential, to not be weighed down by insecurity about being “shown up.” As any athlete knows, you don’t improve your game and team if you play with or against inferior players. If you are on a board, or if you are an employee, ask yourself: Are the people your leader hires of equal or higher potential than the leader herself? Are they farther along than the leaders were themselves at their own stages of development or tenure? As a venture capital colleague of ours once said, A’s attract A’s and B’s attract C’s.

•    They seek real diversity of talent. Mediocre executives find comfort in similarity, whether it’s a team’s social, educational, or philosophical orientation. They end up hiring people in their own image. Superior leaders risk hiring people outside their usual way of seeing, sensing, processing, and solving problems. They go beyond their comfort zone to ensure that the people they attract are not cut from the same mold, and will give them different perspectives. Do the leaders dare to have people who see things very differently than they would and know how to handle the diverse views productively? For a recent deal that our firm, Cue Ball, was reviewing, a partner at one of the top Silicon Valley venture capital firms said, “Listen, we have the interest of every top-branded VC in the Valley for this deal, but what we need is someone that will break us from that group-think, and that feels like you.” It showed that the VC recognized that we would have differentiated, valuable, and complementary perspectives that might better help the company at hand — a sign of a talent magnet.

•    They maintain a holistic view of where the very best talents are in their fields. The best talent magnets take a very holistic and strategic view of their industry and talent pool. Ask of the CEOs or entrepreneurs you know: Can you list the best one or two people anywhere in the world for the handful of jobs in your organization that are pivotal to its performance? Next, where are these people right now (if they’re not already on your team)? Are you in contact with them? In sports, we all know the superstars of all the teams. Why is it that so many business leaders do not know the superstars in their relevant talent landscape? A top-notch leader will know and always have the very best talent stars in her sights. She will get to know them and if they are not with her, work over time to attract them to her team.

The ability to find and keep talent is perhaps the most valuable of all leadership attributes. And the best talent magnets make clear from their constant actions that their priorities are all about attracting and retaining the best. In business success, it is always all about people.

 

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