Mining for Hidden Human Potential

In Our View …

The mining industry has long known the importance and value of good geology and
sound prospecting. It understands how operating performance is inevitably linked to the
location of the ore body and the “grade” of the ore being mined. It occurs to us, the
same thinking, skill and science need to be used by every organization in order to do a
better job of “prospecting” for the hidden talent locked deep in the reservoirs of their
human capital mines.

Simply put, managing and measuring the current performance of people is no longer the
number one organizational best practice when it comes to workforce management, and
they certainly should not be the primary focus that dominates the human capital
management process from a time and cost point of view. Performance Management,
while undoubtedly important, has shifted to becoming nothing more than table stakes in
the rapidly changing competitive equation.

The great organizations of tomorrow know what the mining industry has known for
hundreds of years. Prospecting and accurately evaluating potential are critical to longterm
success. As a result, they pay fierce attention to their “life of mine” plan. Even
while they are busy producing for today, they are equally fixated on finding the new,
high yielding ore bodies for the future that lie hidden beneath the surface. So it should
be in the search for talent.

Yours truly,

R. Douglas Williamson
President & CEO

The Mystique of Performance …

Maybe it’s just us, but we have observed that while Managers and Employees can
disagree on many things, they often share the same view when it comes to the
Performance Management process. They don’t like it. They think it is forced. They believe
it is too time consuming and bureaucratic. They do not see how it serves to actually
improve performance.

On the other hand, talk to an Employee (or a Manager, or an Executive for that matter)
about their future, and all of a sudden you have a more alert conversation.

Reflect for a moment, on where you spend your private thinking time and what occupies
your intimate conversations. Is it talking about your job performance, or is it about your
future plans, your professional dreams, your personal desires, and finding the perfect job
outside of your current confines?

I think we know the answer.

It seems to us, putting so much organizational effort into a process that is, at its best,
“retrospective” in nature, no longer makes sense in a world where uncertainty reins and
where the conditions for success are changing daily. Performance Management is only
valuable when it is balanced by an equal emphasis on what really matters – the future!

To put a fine point on things, we believe most organizations are being negligent when it
comes to their responsibility to the future. Performance matters – we are not arguing
that point, it is obvious. It’s just that there is an even more important consideration
which receives far too little emphasis – the managing of Potential.

The Allure of Potential …

I don’t actually know the figures, but I sure wonder how much money organizations are
spending each year on Head Hunters and Recruitment Firms.

Think about it. The very organizations that have done such a poor job identifying and
developing their own talent, actually go outside and pay good money to identify able
bodied candidates – outsiders – who then get added into a pool that we know, by
definition, is not being properly developed. It’s lunacy!

Now, we are not against people making money because there is a legitimate demand to
fill. We are just against those who create the demand by not paying enough attention to
the alternatives, and not doing a better job of nurturing the talent within.

Our argument is as follows.

  • Talent matters – more than ever before
  • Managing talent – can and must be improved
  • Future potential – is harder to judge than performance
  • Past performance – is not an accurate predictor of future ability
  • The ROI equation has shifted – because the world has changed dramatically

We feel the future competitive success of any organization will have more to do with
their ability to identify and manage the hidden potential which lies within, than it will
managing performance or recruiting from outside.

The Cost of Ignorance …

Let us ask a few simple questions to help illustrate our point.

  • How many hours of driving school does the average teenager need before they
    get a licence to take your car onto the road?
  • How many hours of flying time does a pilot need before they are fully licensed
    to fly an Airbus or 767?
  • How many hours of exams does your average Lawyer or Accountant have to sit
    before they are given a license to practice?

Now, let’s ask another question.

  • How many hours of Talent Management training does your typical mid-level
    Manager or Executive have before they are “licensed” to manage people and
    determine their potential?

OK – we know. It’s not the same.

In organizational life we learn “on the job” and it comes with “practice”.
Well, it’s time to change that view, and develop a level of consciousness and
sophistication that befits the times in which we live. It would be hard to estimate (and
impossible to imagine) the cost of mismanagement and the waste of potential we have
seen over time. All of this is due to a lack of awareness of the importance and value of
properly managing human potential, and a lack of willingness to invest the same time in
managing potential as we do in managing performance.

It’s time to get it right.

The Value of Foresight …

In most organizations, the annual Business Planning process takes hundreds of hours,
countless meetings, and dozens and dozens of people. It uses complex spreadsheets,
detailed analysis and sophisticated forecasts to identify scenarios of the future. It then
commits to budgets and allocates capital accordingly.

Contrast that against the time spent on the annual Human Potential Plan.

    • Not the Board-mandated succession plan, but the evaluation of potential plan.
    • Not the review of the VPs and above, but the evaluation of the level below.

Let’s just suggest the ratio is not 1:1. In fact, chances are, most of the time you currently
spend on Human Capital issues is split between Performance Reviews and “firefighting”
– those last minute drills about filling holes and who is going to get that job in Sales or
Operations now that Sally or Sam is gone.

Frankly –

    • How much time do you spend on forecasting your future people needs?
    • How rigorous is your analysis of changing conditions?
    • How scientific is your process of evaluation?

I am reminded of the oft quoted phrase about why Wayne Gretzky was such a great
hockey player. You know, the one about him always skating to where the puck would be,
not to where it was.

It’s the same in the game of Human Capital. Foresight gives you the edge.

Cloistered Mindset …

Without a doubt, the cost of poor Human Capital management is both “real”, in terms of
the cash outlay (Head Hunters fees, etc.), and “hidden”, in terms of the lost opportunity
cost and wasted potential. The lack of rigorous systems and scientific processes is one
reason for this, but the other reason is basic human frailty.

We all have biases we need to counteract, based on our sensory perceptions.

Sight – We often fail to look forward to anticipate what tomorrow’s needs will be,
and admit they might be radically different from today’s. As a result, we don’t
change the formula for success when we should.

Smell – We don’t trust our intuition when we witness a singular act of brilliance on
the part of an employee and fail to notice the aroma of potential success. Similarly,
we are not always sensitive enough to the toxic odour of those with limited

Hearing – We are incredibly tone deaf. We only hear what we want to hear, and are
not open to the range of possible alternatives. We get stuck in a sound groove
where the only possible value can lie in what we have heard before, not in the new
or novel.

Taste – We all have our preferences. Some like it hot. Some don’t. We can all allow
that preference to distort our view of people and, more importantly, our view of
their future potential.

Touch – We all like to think management is grounded in logic and proven science
when, as Henry Mintzberg has said, it is actually equal parts art, craft and science.
As such, the artist knows the subtleties that come with a fine touch.

Behavioural Leverage Points …

The world of tomorrow will be nothing like today. The progress of society (and hence
organizational life) comes from a constant evolution in our thinking, and how we adapt
to circumstance by responding to the signals the future emits.

Just take a look at some of the literature about the future from some leading gurus.

  • James Canton – “The Extreme Future”
  • Richard Watson – “Future Files”
  • George Friedman – “The Next 100 Years”

You will notice, implicit in their various prognoses, a strong common view about the
qualities which will be important in the future in order to master success in an emerging
environment. These are some of the qualities you need to be considering as you
re-examine the talent bench, and think about where the hidden pockets and/or thick
veins of precious ore reside beneath the surface of your existing organization.

They include:

Contextual Intelligence I Strategic Foresight I Social Network Connectivity

Wiki Mindset I Emotional Intelligence I Technological Savvy

System Thinking I Opportunity Sensing I Risk Acumen

Intellectual Dexterity I Curiosity

Generational Change …

There are two books we believe do the best job of outlining the important changes and
natural impacts occurring through the generational shifts which have happened over
time, and which we are in the midst of once again.

The first is by the late American business guru, Warren Bennis.

    • “Geeks & Geezers – Eras, Values & Defi ning Moments”

The second is by the Australian writer, Peter Sheahan.

      • “Generation Y – Thriving & Surviving”

They both come to essentially the same conclusions.

        • We are all products of the era in which we were born.
        • We are shaped by the social mores of those particular times.
        • We are all subject to the unrelenting forces of youthful rebellion.
        • We all witness shifts at the fringe that become mainstream over time.

The implication is simple. An organization must spend quality time understanding the
underlying social and generational changes, and connecting those changes to their
business model and their future talent requirements. If not, they will likely find
themselves at a disadvantage when the bell rings for the next round of the global fight
for relevance and economic prosperity.

It’s a choice.

The Shifting Value Proposition …

A little earlier, we talked about the Behavioural Leverage Points as they apply to the
talent we will need to seek out in the future. How about the Leadership Attributes we
will need in order to be able to identify and manage that potential?

We believe they are equally worth examining, and are very likely quite different from the
ones we use today. In fact, if you think about it for a moment – just exactly what are
the qualities, attributes and/or competencies you currently require of your people
managers when it comes to Talent Management?

1. Do you have attributes specific to the domain of Talent Identification?
2. Are they as well understood and practiced as others – say Customer Centricity?
3. Do they reside in the HR Department, or are they business line embedded?

Here is our take on what the Manager/Leader of the future will need to have.

    • A rich, varied and extensive “Experience Repertoire”.
    • Broad, rather than deep, cognitive thinking abilities.
    • Exploration (rather than Exploitation) mindset and orientation.
    • Talent Magnet Ability – the capacity to attract talented people into their orbit.

In addition, it will be non-negotiable for these new leaders to demonstrate genuine
tolerance, willing acceptance, and a total appreciation of diversity. They must be the
warriors in the next big diversity battle – Diversity 3.0 – the war for diversity of opinion
and style.

Steps to Take :: Actions to Consider …

As we look forward to the next 10 years, with all of the social, technological and global
unpredictability and challenges we will face, the one thing we can definitely predict is
that great talent will matter. Accurately identifying and then releasing that talent will
become an even greater imperative in order to succeed and win in the marketplace.

It’s time to refresh our views, improve our understanding and renew our priorities.

Organizations are going to have to shift their focus forward, and place more time, care
and attention on the issue of “Identifying Potential”, and not just “Managing

Here are some suggestions for the steps you can take.

Lean Forward

Living in the moment will not work when both the rate of change and the levels of
chaos are on the rise. It’s time to pause and do a better job of getting your best
thinkers together to project how the universe will unfold for your organization.

Rebalance the Equation

Decide where you want your people managers to spend their time. Refocus them on
the potential side of the equation, and make them responsible for identifying future
talent by introducing hard metrics of accountability.

Invest in Better Geology

There is no point going blindly into prospecting, so face the fact you will need to
introduce some better discipline, and you will have to make some hard calls in terms
of where you will drill your first test holes.

Avoid the Temptation to Cheat

We all do it. We get lazy. We look for the shortcuts. Don’t do this when it comes to
the potential game. Put hard disciplines in place. Make it an organizational priority.
Stick to it.

Lift the Dialogue

The quality of conversation and deliberation about Talent Management issues in
general is pretty poor. The senior leadership team needs to lead in this regard by
ensuring the dialogue about talent is as high as it can be.

Introduce some Science

It is likely you already use some fairly refined tools to project and allocate your
capital investment priorities. Why should it be any different when it comes to your
Human Capital? It shouldn’t be. Implement more rigour.

Reward the Talent Champions

The best solution to the whole talent attraction equation is to have people who are
very good at it. Make sure you know who the “talent magnets” really are and ensure
you profile them for all to see – and learn.

The Beacon Group …

We are a Canadian based professional services consulting firm supporting a diverse
portfolio of clients throughout North America and around the world. We work with
senior leadership teams in all sectors and industries, in the development of their
organizational strategies and in leveraging their human capital.

We advise senior leaders on how to transform their culture, improve performance and
build effective leadership capability at all levels. We help:

Identify critical gaps – which impact organizational and leadership effectiveness

Facilitate crucial conversations – in a direct, “straight talk” manner

Align resources – to achieve sustainable high performance

Develop talent – in order to navigate the future

Our practice is divided into four main areas of expertise.

Our Point of View …

Times have changed.

Organizations are facing difficult and complex challenges.

Leaders are being asked to make different choices to confront crucial problems.

In times of turbulence and uncertainty, The Beacon Group helps organizations navigate
the future. We help senior leaders redefine their strategic ambition and identify the
stubborn barriers that are getting in the way. We help them reimagine a new path and
then support them as they take practical steps to enhance performance, improve
effectiveness and achieve new levels of sustained excellence.

Our Promises …

We Believe – mindsets, attitudes, behaviour and character matter and that clear,
consistent and authentic relationships are at the very heart of any “Trusted
Partnership” with a client.

We Commit – to being a progressive, passionate, customer driven partner. We are
thought leaders who are not only responsive, but agile as well.

We Support – progressive leaders and ambitious organizations in transforming business
performance, organizational culture and leadership potential.

We Partner – with senior leaders to help create robust strategies, solid frameworks and pragmatic solutions to their most difficult challenges and intriguing opportunities.

We Achieve – results that make a difference and allow our clients to lead with
confidence, and execute with clarity and accountability.

Organizational Transformation I Leadership Development