Beverley Merriman

Leadership 101

Your biggest resource is your employees — your biggest problem harnessing their talent.

The right people … passionate, accountable, loyal, dependable, punctual, culturally fit and mentally stable — and to top it all, they have the ability to think on their feet. They’re brilliant, talented, motivated and hungry for information, innovation, results and success.

So you managed to employ the “right” people. Good for you — grab yourself a Noddy badge and move on to the fact that you now have to manage and harness their talent for a greater good.

The right people with the wrong strategy, wrong structure and wrong operational systems, undoubtedly, spell disaster. Why? Well, Einstein, no matter how brilliant, talented and initially passionate the people are, they can’t (and won’t) perform when your company has little or no strategy, the wrong structures and bad operational systems. It’s what we call limiting.

You biggest headache has just become orienting talent! How do you do this? Well, start with yourself. Are you a good leader? Are you the key to retaining talent? Of course you are! You control the strategy, structures and operational systems, don’t you?

Apart from seeing to it that the basics are in place for your talented team to function, to retain and harness talent, you need to become a wiz at mentoring, nurturing your staff and giving them some worthwhile feedback — tactfully. Retaining these hard-to-please (also very rare to find!) individuals should be your number-one goal. A company is ultimately only as good as the company it keeps. Effective networking is crucial and excellent relationships and constructive communication with staff, suppliers and customers are priceless.

Things you need to get in place and to develop include ( these won’t guarantee talent retention, but will improve your odds drastically):

  • Strong leadership — it’s reassuring.
  • Visible passion and excitement from yourself — it’s contagious.
  • Recognition for input, effort and hours — people love acknowledgement. It’s a fundamental human need.
  • A conductive environment with sufficient resources — systems, practices and strategy will make or break the spirit of your team.
  • The minimum bureaucracy — wake up, this is a new world. Red tape and top-down structure is outdated. Get yourself into a state of transparency, collaboration and flat organisational structure. Nobody cares about middle management any more.
  • Trust — being constantly suspicious of your staff because you are a control maniac is no way to retain talented intellectual beings.
  • Give them work-life balance — and you will be an instant hero. Realise that they, too, have lives!
  • Now, genius, go out there and get going. These are exponential times, in an age where speed is key … do you really have time to sit and contemplate the implementation of this? I think not.

    • bua

      Is there perhaps somebody out there who is selling, at discounted prices, insight and passion. There is a number of senior managers within the public service who desperetaley need it but can not afford it. Perhaps it should be noted that should they buy it, they will receive at no extra cost a pair of eyes and ears. We are allowing a situation in which the public service is becoming the playgound for political infantiles, the political correct nomenclature being deployees, who have no into the burden of cost to Project SA. To what extend should we continue to be silent and tolerate the petulance and complete disdain for disciplinary processes. I do not believe that a senior position within the public service should be a scouting expedition for opportunities within the private sector yet it seem as if we have allowed ourselves to be lulled in this regard and …”The Looser is the most vulnerable and marginalised …”

    • alan

      great article, thanks. i love the bit about nobody cares about middle management anymore… 😉

    • Shaun

      Brilliant! very beneficial article… :-)

    • Beverley Merriman

      Bua, Alan, Shaun – Thank you for your valued comments. Much appreciated!

    • Dave Campbell-Watts

      And build a shared common set of values which everyone understands, uses and contributes to. A core set of values means everyone is clear about what is expected of them. It drives appropriate behaviours and then performance. Everyone should be involved in the identification of the values and everyone signs up. If someone works counter to the values, hurting the company in some way, that person has broken their sign up and should expect to be pulled up.
      On the upside, a solid set of values is a massive help to a company because:
      – People know what is expected of them, and will manage themselves;
      – Teams and groups will self regulate, removing the need for _control_ from above;
      – When recruiting you can be clear what the company stands for, and you can have an open debate with a potential candidate about whether they want to work in that type of organisation;

      This all of course requires strong leadership, and the maturity to realise that you as the boss do not set the companies values, you facilitiate the setting of the values. And this only gets you a high performing team with self regulating behaviours, you still need to have a great product which you sell, build, support excellently.

      As you say, inspirational leadership is the key.

    • Beverley Merriman

      Dave – I completely agree with you on the importance of company values and objectives. I find it shocking that many companies don’t have these basics in place. I also love your thought on facilitation – ultimately if you want to retain talent this is the way to do it!

      I would like to add that communication is probably the most crucial element to achieve success. Without clear communication none of the above can be achieved.

      Thanks for your great comment!

    • Jeremy

      Excellent article! Now if I can just find some way of accidentally slipping it into my boss’s inbox…

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