Home > Career, Organizational Culture > Role of Talent in Corporate Performance

Role of Talent in Corporate Performance

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We have often heard it said that human capital is an organisation’s most valuable asset.

Yesterday Prof. Masud Arjmand, who teaches at Kellogg School of Management  (North Western University, USA), explained how and why with a thought provoking lecture. The professor posed a series of questions that had to be answered first by the participants and then led the group towards the most effective response through further questioning – this method prompted participation; its better than making people sit quiet while you talk on and on.

Prof. Arjmand’s talk focused on the role of talent in Corporate Performance.

The session was kicked off with this quote from a Jim Collins (author of “Good to Great” and “Built to last”) book – “Hire the best people and get out of their way!”

The first question to the audience was – Who trumps whom? People or Organisation?

Employees would love to believe that they can beat their employers by working below par or by walking out and organisations think they can wring out their employees dry and pay below par or that they can even stop the talent from flourishing by not providing an enabling environment. But each side is cutting its own feet by doing the above – people and organisations win only when there is a happy alchemy of favourable inputs and support from one side being matched by optimum performance from the other.

PERFORMANCE =          PEOPLE                        +                 ENVIRONMENT

(Commitment/Compliance/Competence)             (Process/Culture/Benefit)

He then asked the audience whether they wished to work in the company that had the “Best People and Average Environment” or “Average People and Best Environment” and then told them that the latter is the better option because it gave everyone an opportunity to shine and space to improve.

The example he gave was of Toyota Motors who did not have any shining stars but had an open culture and a supportive management that permitted everyone to express their ideas and to perform well. That made the company one of the giants in the automobile sector.

Prof Masud showed a graphic which had two profiles – the first person (A) was a high performer in a rapidly growing sector and another (B) who was working hard to keep a company afloat in a dying sector. He asked who would get chosen for the CEO position if we were to chose? And everyone went for Option-A, the Star. Then Prof. Masud said that the 2nd candidate had more experience in dealing with complexities and would have worked on various things in order to stay afloat – so B would make a better candidate than A who was probably getting business without trying too hard.

But he agreed that in the real world A gets chosen more often, because people rarely looked at effort and were easily swayed by results.

Then he came around to posing the question on Self vs. Organisation – people usually attribute success to own efforts and failure to lack of support from the manager or organisation. A sensible person would look at the situation with greater objectivity and not fall into the Fundamental Attribution Error he said.

Then it was time to deal with the key premise – Talent!

He spoke about the Nature and Nurture theory and explained using Tiger Woods as an example. Woods broke into the scene way after he started playing Golf – it was only when he hit the winning streak that the world noticed him – but he had started playing the game from the age of 5 and methodically developed mastery over the game.

Prof Masud said that we are born with Aptitude to do something well and that flowers into Talent when practiced diligently and consistently. He spoke also about the need for a Coach: Yes, even Tiger Woods has one! We need to practice the right things to be the Best and the Coach helps to iron out the wrinkles even in the best.

Talent can be developed said the professor – Managers, the rough diamonds who join your team are testing grounds for your coaching skills. Can you develop them into shining talents? It is wrong to search for talent just during the recruitment process and then ignore them totally when they on board – its aptitude that we should look for while recruiting and then turn it into talent through tasking, coaching and supporting. The work begins only when they join.

But even the best recruitment process in the world cannot differentiate between good and bad with 100% accuracy. Prof Masud shared an interesting case of a very successful CEO of a Fortune 500 company who had come to him, for a job at Accenture, while still a junior-level Manager. But he had refused the man the job!

Although the Prof had regrets for a while about not choosing that person he says neither side was affected in the long-term. Accenture remains a big name in consulting and the candidate made it big elsewhere. His message was that you may not always get the best – it is statistically impossible for everyone to have the best – but the opportunity exists to make the best of what we already have. That is the challenge confronting all Managers.

Another important insight shared by Prof Masud is that we can’t be two people at home and work; what we are at work is what we usually are at home and vice versa; or else we would be a prime breeding-ground for stress. How we treat others must match how we wish to be treated, he added.

With the collapse of families and authority structures in the social realm workplaces too have become less hierarchical and more independent. So people trying to be pushy and dictatorial would find themselves sidelined or shunned and fighting a losing battle.

Then he shared some tips for Personal Growth to the Managers of tomorrow:

–          Self expression

–          Authentic relationship

–          Sense of purpose

–          Autonomy, Trust and Respect

–          Purposeful dialogue

–          Empowerment

–          Suspension of status and authority

Prof Masud Arjmand closed his lecture with two messages for all managers:

– TALENT is the “fuel” that runs the “machine” called ORGANISATION to deliver “PERFORMANCE”, or results!

– “Manage Context, not people!”

  1. June 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm


    • JayadevM
      June 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you, Roshni.

  2. Vijay Gargipati
    June 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    insightful…thank you for sharing

  3. June 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    thanks for sharing JM, very good article indeed, cheers!

    • JayadevM
      June 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you, Prem.

      Let me use this message to acknowledge the comments from Vijay and Jamy too – Thank you!


  4. Jamy
    June 20, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Great read Jay!

  5. June 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    loved it jayadev

    • JayadevM
      June 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Thank you, Sajan.

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