The cover article in the June issue of Harvard Business Review is titled “The Big Idea: 21st-Century Talent Spotting.” Since all of us as managers are constantly on the lookout for talent, the title of course grabbed my attention. The author, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at a global executive firm, boldly claims that potential is “the most important predictor of success at all levels.”
My mother often said to me, “Look before you leap.” She was warning me to stop for a second and think before I threw myself headlong into whatever it was I was considering. That’s because out of her four children, I was probably the most impulsive. Let me reword that—I was the most impulsive.
Sunday’s New York Times featured an article titled “Why You Hate Work.” Right from the opening paragraph, I must admit, I had my back up a bit. The article claims it’s very likely that I’m not excited about my work, I don’t feel appreciated while there, I find it difficult to get my most important tasks accomplished, and I really don’t feel like what I do makes a difference. How dare these people tell me what I’m thinking and feeling?! They don’t know me.
On November 7, 1967, 1st Lieutenant Lee Ellis was shot down over North Vietnam. He would spend the next five-plus years as a POW. Not only did he survive the North Vietnamese prison camps, but he also remained in the military after his release, finally retiring as a colonel. And his combat decorations include two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Prisoner of War Medal.
We live in a world where everything moves fast and is interconnected. There was a time when 20 miles may have represented an entire day’s journey. Now we can travel that distance in less than 20 minutes. And information moves even faster. We learn about things that are occurring halfway around the world almost as they happen. Yet despite the fact that we can get so much more done in a day than our ancestors could ever imagine, we still feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Last night, my wife encouraged me to watch the movie Saving Mr. Banks, and I’m glad she did. The movie, which stars Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, tells the story of Walt Disney’s quest to obtain the rights to make a movie based on P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins and her role in its creation.
I’m sitting in the airport in Austin, Texas, and the faint and rare sound of a bagpipe can be heard in the background. It seems, at the very least, out of place in a major-city airport. As the sound grows louder, it’s clear that whoever is playing the instrument is drawing closer. In the distance, I can see a man in a plaid kilt walking down the hall toward where I’m sitting. And as he draws nearer, the people to my left rise to their feet. I, too, must stand—if only to see why the bagpipe-playing, kilt-wearing gentleman is garnering so much attention.
In a recent conversation with an organizational psychologist, I was asked, “What are the top three things you look for in the members of your management team?” That’s a big and important question. Yet I was able to answer it quickly and easily: “Trustworthiness, compatibility, and talent.” The next sentence I uttered might surprise you; it surprised me. Without really thinking, I followed up my four-word sentence about what I look for in the people who make up my management team with these three words: “In that order.”
One of the national hotel chains, in an attempt to attract business travelers, advertises that if you stay at its hotels, you’ll be able to take on “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.” The ad shows Regional Manager Amy, after spending a night in one of the hotels, being able to tame the chest-pounding 800-pound gorilla the next day in her meeting.
Vince Lombardi once said, “I think coaching is teaching, see? So I don’t think there’s any difference whether you teach on the football field or whether you teach in the classroom. They’re both exactly the same. It’s a question of . . . a good teacher puts across what he wants to his pupils. Whether it’s done on a football field or whether it’s done in a classroom, it’s one and the same.”