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The Real War for Talent

The Real War for Talent

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Published by Dr John Kenworthy
The search for talent is ongoing. Individuals seek to develop their talents, companies seek to identify talent and retain it, succession planning requires it, politicians plan for it, and the world wants to find it. But what is it?
The search for talent is ongoing. Individuals seek to develop their talents, companies seek to identify talent and retain it, succession planning requires it, politicians plan for it, and the world wants to find it. But what is it?

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Published by: Dr John Kenworthy on Apr 13, 2010
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01/29/2013

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The Real War forTalent 
The war is not to find talent; it’s to use thetalent you have already
The search for talent is ongoing. Individuals seek to developtheir talents, companies seek to identify talent and retain it,succession planning requires it, politicians plan for it, and theworld wants to find it. But what is it?
John Kenworthy4/6/2010
 
John Kenworthy
 
2
THE WAR IS NOT TO FIND TALENT; IT’S TO USE THE TALENT YOU HAVE ALREADY.
The search for talent is ongoing. Individuals seek to develop their talents, companies seek to identifytalent and retain it, succession planning requires it, politicians plan for it, and the world wants to find it.But what is it?I was having dinner at a friend's home and the subject came up because their 11 year old son had recentlybrought home his school report card which stated from his art teacher: "[His] talent is yet to be fullydeveloped." His mother, always one for a quick tongue responded "His only talent is making excuses fornot doing his homework."The young boy sat at the table grimacing and whilst his mum meant it in jest, there was an element of truth in it. I said "I see a glittering future as a political spin-doctor." The boy's eyes lit up. This so-calledtalent had a purpose.The word "talent" is bandied around for so many things and we don't always truly understand what ismeant by "talent". So to the trusty dictionary...
Talent: innate mental or artistic aptitude (as opposed to acquired ability); less than genius.
 So what is innate?
Innate: existing in one from birth; inborn; native: innate musical talent.
Now, my core business is experiential training and a behaviouralist, so if talent cannot be acquired...Better find a better definition...
Talent: natural ability to do something well.
 
That nasty word 'natural'
Natural: based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature: Growth is a natural  process.
The Thesaurus, always illuminating, and find ‘talent’ associated with words like
'ability', ' 'adeptness','adroitness', 'charisma', 'facility', 'gift', 'knack', ‘wisdom’, ‘gumption’, ‘capacity’, ‘brilliance’ and ‘genius’ 
 Is it seems that you are either born with a talent or not. No acquiring a talent, developing it certainly, butif the foundation is not there...Companies seek 'talent' for succession planning, as do politicians. It is most often associated withleadership or management 'talent'.Companies are also hooked on retaining talent. And surely that's right, once you have talent in yourorganisation, you really don't want to lose it. Many, inspired by a Mckinnsey article in 1997 "The War forTalent" took this to extreme, indulging 'talent' and doing everything they could to keep them engaged,satisfied, even delighted. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, wrote an article in the NewYorker magazine in 2002 entitled "The Talent Myth". By then the whole 'War for talent' was under a dark,ominous cloud called Enron. The McKinssey article had, after all, been largely based on what Enron wasdoing at the time and how everybody should emulate it.The trouble is that 'talent' is most often ascribed to the very brightest, highly motivated individuals whoare very driven. And being bright (intelligent) does not, necessarily, mean talent. Being 'driven' is not theonly criteria for success.
 
The Real War for Talent
 
3I have met and worked with many talented individuals. In fact, I believe that every single person hastalent. What that talent is and how it can be used by companies is another matter.If we accept that talent is something that you are born with, surely we need to know how do we identifytalent, and how do we leverage that talent?
IDENTIFYING TALENT
I've seen this in many organisations. The brightest and best are identified as part of the talent pool -there's some fanfare, a suite of training programs, perhaps MBAs are taken and the talent are promoted.Meanwhile, the non-talent morale has sunk, many have quit or actively seeking new positions,commitment has dropped and performance suffered. The talent, being highly driven, take this uponthemselves and make up for the loss, working extra hard and many burning out. There follows a newinitiative to regain the work-life balance and a big drive to retain talent.An alternativeWe can talk to the existing talent - the best leaders, managers, the best individual contributors - not justfrom your own organisation but others too, and uncover their foundational talents that enable them to beall that they are. It really can be quite surprising:
 
The Sales head of a global telecomms company, highest sales, driven, emulated by staff. Talent:Running!
 
The CFO of a globally renowned auditing firm, admired by staff, relied on by the entire organisation,inspirational and respected. Talent: Artist!
 
Executive Head Chef, world famous, near-worshipped by other chefs. Talent: Calculus!
 
The COO of an International Bank, greatly respected, charismatic and exceptional innovativecustomer service. Talent: Acting!
 
Innovative Entrepreneur, adored by staff, gregarious, fun and incredibly creative. Talent: Comedian!There are many other examples, some obvious, many not. What is common to most of the people wehave interviewed is that their talent itself is not
what
enables them to do what they do, it is
how
they dothe talent.I suggest that we do something a little different. Why not find what the underlying and true individual'stalents are and then leverage them towards the leadership or management attributes you need? Orperhaps, we can identify their talent and find out where they best fit in your organisation and for some,outside it.

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