When asked about getting ahead in today’s organization, I used to tell folks that it takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance. While those tenets certainly hold some truth, individuals that work their way up in a company exhibit a number of qualities that separate themselves from others. Understanding these qualities is exceptionally important to our managers and leaders, as this will allow them to provide better development plans for personal and career improvement for their direct reports. For the company, this allows for a solid foundation in succession planning and workforce stability. Older performance measures also focused on what it means to be competent; but, failed to drive home what it means to be a role model. A role model is the ideal behavior that we all want to strive for in today’s workplace, in order to optimize overall performance. So what exactly are these qualities that allow our employees to rise to the top of today’s organization?
Achieves Extraordinary Results
Individuals that achieve extraordinary results set the bar very high for themselves and are aware of how others are performing around them. They make it clear that they want to be seen as a top performer. They set aggressive goals and achieve them. As they mature and grow in the organization, they set their sights outside of the company and determine how they can differentiate their company from competing companies and learn how to lead the industry. Typical role model behavior for these types of leaders is that they can be seen “breaking down walls” as they say, motivating others to deliver, setting and achieving game changing goals and are never complacent.
Role model thought leaders go beyond being active learners by coming up with ideas and implementing them. They think outside of their own company and industry, challenging others to do the same in an effort to change the status quo. These leaders are strategic and capable of expressing their vision to others in such a way that motivates them. Others will also feel “smarter” after listening to a great thought leader. These visionaries drive disruptive technologies and products, as they see this as essential to their vision. As a result, they also tend to “expand the book” because their mission is to redefine what has already been defined.
Attracting and Developing Talent
Attracting talent requires someone who can sell a compelling vision to someone else and get that person to buy into that vision. We all recall the story of the start-up at Apple computer where an entrepreneurial Steve Jobs was growing a company very quickly in the early 1980’s. While Steve had a vision of where he wanted to go with Apple, he had little management experience and realized that in order to get Apple where it needed to go, a professional management structure would need to be put in place. Steve eventually reached out to John Scully, then the President and CEO of Pepsi Co. I am sure that when John received the call he was probably thinking as to why somebody from a garage shop operation was bothering him to run this company. Nevertheless, Steve convinced John to meet with him. Steve’s vision was compelling but John was still not sold. The saying goes that the two of them went on a walk where Steve bluntly asked John: “Do you want to continue to sell this brown fizzy stuff for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?” The rest is history; however, this is an excellent example of what it means to sell a vision in order to attract top talent.
So, how do you develop top talent? Developing top talent is derived from maintaining that compelling vision of where you are headed, plus understanding what it means to be a role model with the attributes of top talent. You carefully craft development plans and point out areas of improvement through constant coaching and mentoring. A sense of ownership, agreement, and individual pursuit must happen as well. Role models will be able to hire the “A players” who get things done and fully expect to be on a winning team. By developing those using top talent qualities, future leaders are grown in the organization as well.
Real Leadership Presence
Those with real leadership presence communicate clearly, effectively, and often. They manage people effectively and demonstrate actions that get respect. Now you might think that this is what a role model would do, correct? Actually, those with role model behavior go far beyond that. They are not only leading within their company, they are leading and influential in the industry. They command the room without an ego, have a sense of humility about themselves and are also role models for effective behavior. Since they generally have a sense of empathy, they are also great listeners and are cool when under pressure. Real leadership presence role models also have another key attribute: they are not focused on themselves, but are truly focused on others. Their goal is to see others succeed to the point where their true accomplishment is best described as developing a leader that can do the job better than they did themselves.
Most people have a schedule and some sort of routine that they stick to. You may like to sleep in and get to work at the last minute or you may have a golf game that you like to attend on Saturdays with your buddies. Well, a friend comes to you and says: “How about joining me for weight lifting at the YMCA at 5:30 am before you go to work?” or your wife announces that there is a new arrival on the way, and your Saturdays will soon be spent with the new family member. That is what change is. Change happens to all of us and the one thing that it has in common with everyone is that most do not like it, and find it uncomfortable. Role model behavior in the business world means that you are an advocate for change. You not only accept the fact that change is needed, you find ways to drive change and foster continuous improvement in the industry. You push boundaries, anticipate change for competitive advantage and sell this vision to the overall company. You persevere and are patient, even though it may seem that the change may not be taking hold. It takes a lot of guts to take a stance; but, if you believe that what you are doing is the right thing and that the future will be better off as a result of the change… then it is well-worth it.
The five tenets of top talent are a continuing journey of improvement. Those that make these their mission in life will most certainly rise to the top of any organization; however, this chosen course may not be for everyone. For those that are happy with where they are at, that is fine. The goal in life is to find a work-balance environment that you feel comfortable with and can maintain. That being stated, I would like you to challenge yourself by picking one of these qualities, and then work on it. Over time you will see improvement and find that you get more out of both your professional career and life.
For those that may be interested, CLICK HERE to watch my most recent TEDx presentation on the Tenets of Top Talent.
Mark Fisher, President