Talent Management: Do You Know Who Your Real Money Players Are?

Whether managing a football team or a footwear business, you need to know the value of each player. Trouble is, success in business or team sports is seldom a solo achievement. Scoring more goals or more revenue than the competition requires an interdependent effort – one forward or one salesperson cannot do it alone. Yet in business, most performance management systems are set up in a way that overemphasizes personal achievement.  As a result, many companies may be incentivizing the wrong people, rewarding the wrong behaviors, and failing to encourage worthy but unflashy contributors.


I was reminded of this the other day when reading about a statistician – well actually, a gambler – who has developed a sophisticated database to guide his bets on professional basketball games. He is phenomenally successful at it. His secret? Using data on past games, he assigns value to players based on how much their presence on the court contributed to wins. In other words, he aligns performance ratings to the business outcome (win/loss) and assigns a numerical value to each player accordingly. As a result, he is neither seduced into thinking that the presence of a so-called star player on the court will translate into victory nor quick to dismiss the odds of a cohesive band of no-name contributors beating a marquee competitor. Did I mention this guy has a mansion in Hollywood?


What does this mean for business? It’s a bit of a wake-up call, I think. We need to get away from focusing on individuals and silos within organizations and, instead, find a way to performance manage that reflects the reality of how business gets done. I met with a CEO recently and he pointed to the people around the table. “They’re all industry experts,” he said. “Absolute experts. But they’re not a team.” Like most leaders I work with, this one was frustrated by not having a high-functioning, cross-functional team capable of developing real business solutions. One of the thorniest performance management challenges today is how to optimize collaboration and the achievement of interdependent outcomes. We all know how to tick the boxes that correspond to personal achievement, but are those attributes as meaningful today and do they really lead to success? Every team member needs individual skills, to be sure, but unless they work together harmoniously, the game will be lost.


How do you manage to the interdependent model of success? What behaviors should you encourage and reward? What is the make-up of the team best prepared to meet your company’s competitive challenges? Talent assessment and competency modeling can be useful methods of getting to the answers and help you begin the process of restructuring your performance management and leadership development systems.  In the meantime, let me hear from you. How do you make sure that the right people get recognized and rewarded in your organization?



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