What’s Your Talent Strategy? (and why you need one)

Today on The Ambition Incubator Podcast we talk about why a talent strategy is so important for business success. As we explore the topic of talent, we also dive into things like why trust and curiosity have a role to play in building an effective team, why powerplays are fear-based tactics, and why being right is an addiction that we need to nip in the bud.

0:00:06.4 S1: You’re listening to The Ambition Incubator Podcast, and I’m your host, Dierdre Morrison. My thing is helping people understand how our brains work so that we can be better and do better in any area of life that’s important to us, so as well as bite-sized brain science, I’ll be bringing you interviews and advice from experts and guests who specialize in working with entrepreneurs and leaders to help them explore potential possibilities and ways to be more effective, and the best bet, we can start right now. What’s your talent strategy? Do you have one? It’s not something I hear a lot about. And in a way, I guess that kind of makes sense because there are so many things going on for a new business that it’s often about filling a hole with whatever comes to hand rather than drawing up a spec for a plug that will not just do the job, but also bring something new to the table. Talking to Jen Thornton about this provided a lot of insight. Jen works with companies who want to hire, retain and develop a pipeline of top talent, and as we explore the topic of talent, we also dive into things like why trust and curiosity, have a role to play in building an effective team, why power plays are fear-based tactics, and why being right is an addiction that we need to nip in the bud. Jennifer, it’s very nice to be speaking to you again so soon.

0:01:28.9 S1: It is lovely to have you here, thanks for coming in. It’s so good. Thank you for having me. Oh, you’re so welcome. Jennifer, I know that we have a lot of things that we could talk about with you today because you have such a wealth of experience that is really useful for any business, I guess, but we’re talking today really about those who are in that sort of startup stage those who are trying to start something new, and maybe those are a little further along as well, but the one thing that jumped out at me from the information that you’d turned over was about talent strategy, and this may actually be an alien term to a lot of people… Can you just sort of outline a little bit about what people would need to know about what talent strategy is…

0:02:17.2 S2: I’m so glad you asked about the talent strategy, especially for businesses that are in early stages, and when we start a business, we’re told to make a business case or a business plan, a business strategy, and so we go out and we do things like researching the market, we research our service or our item or widget, whatever we’re selling, or whatever our business is about, and we make these amazing spreadsheets and we have all these numbers and everything is just perfect, but no one ever says, How are you actually gonna make this happen? And that’s your talent strategy, and so once you have your business model, once you have your business plan, then you have to say, Okay, what’s our talent strategy, how are we gonna make this come true and start to think about what type of work needs to be done what type of positions do you need, what type of people do you need to hire? And all of those things start to come in to the conversation and support your actual business model, but when we’re taught to create business models were never taught to add the talent strategy on top of it.

0:03:23.3 S1: Yeah, it’s fascinating, really, ’cause I actually was listening to a thing, it was a little video that Steven barlaam posted this morning on LinkedIn, and he said that he was in year three of his business before he realized that one of his main functions was recruitment, and that it was his job as an entrepreneur, and as we know, he’s really successful, well, he does, but one of his main roles was to recruit exceptional people, and that doesn’t really happen by accident, does is…

0:03:52.4 S2: It doesn’t happen by accident. And to recruit and to retain exceptional people, you have to make talent a priority, it has to be as strong as a priority as your service model, because it backs up your service model, it has to be as strong as maybe if you’re a software company as your developers, because if you’re not… If you don’t have exceptional developers, you don’t have exceptional product, and so every single thing you do, everything you wanna excel in means you have to find people to help you excel in that, and all everything you wanna do starts with the people that you hire, and for some reason, we were taught kind of the opposite to start with… To start with his plan and everything else comes together. I don’t know why we ever thought that or why that was ever created in our minds, but I think that when you look at the history of leadership, in the history of work, many times people just thought that there’s just enough workers that workers just do what they’re told… And that’s just not where we live today, and it’s not how we work today, and so I think that some of those old behaviors as old Best Practices linger with us, and for those who have moved past that, for those who understand that as a leader…

0:05:14.8 S2: One of your main priorities is to recruit and retain talent, those people are doing much better in their business and they’re doing much… They’re having probably a lot more fun. Because when you have the right people on your team, you have so much more fun actually doing the work.

0:05:28.0 S1: Yeah, that is so insightful. Gentlemen, this whole idea that we’re working to historical models of our business was when it was very top-down structure, and basically you had someone at the top and maybe an elite group there as well, and then millions basically… Yeah, but that really isn’t our world, it absolutely isn’t, we have to be collaborators, we have to be willing to engage and innovate and all those wonderful things in order to create the businesses that we actually want. There was something else actually that came up as well, and I think we’ll sort of find a thread that goes… Is going through this conversation. But one of the things that I’ve been reading recently is Alsace book from start-up to grown up, and in that one of the things and tendencies that she talks about, and I think this maybe also plays into what we’re talking about here, is the idea that founders and startups tend to almost replicate themselves in their recruitment process, they don’t look beyond their working DNA if you like… What’s your take on that?

0:06:35.8 S2: Oh, it’s so funny that you bring that up because you’re absolutely right. And I think Lisa cone has some really great points in that book, we hire people like us because we wanna be around them when someone comes in and it feels different to us, we’re like, Well, they’re just different, in our brains, don’t always see the value that difference has in the workplace, what also happens is if we don’t have a talent strategy and we don’t understand who and why we need to hire for something, then we end up hiring more people like us, which means there’s a ton of work that everyone does really well, and a ton of work that no one knows how to do, no one wants to do it and no one’s good at it, and that’s again, why you think back to that talent strategy, because if you say, Alright, this is the direction we’re taking the business we need… This type of person to really take over marketing, we need this type of person to lead our development group, we need this type of person to lead our analytics, and we’re gonna be really comfortable with the differences, because there’s differences are what really brings all of the viewpoints to the table in all the different ways in which a problem can be solved, but again, if we don’t have a talent strategy, we just keep repeating our own things like us and things that feel similar to us and things we really understand, but to have a really strong business, you’ve got to bring people in, that challenge the way you think, that challenge the way you wanna do something and help you become a better leader, help you make better and more informed decisions.

0:08:14.7 S1: Yeah, yeah, that really does seem so important to this process as well, you know that A, we’re willing to invest the time in figuring out what it is that we don’t have ourselves what it is that we need to add to the recipe, if you like to make it a new or a better recipe, but also maybe this idea of trusting the unknown that you’re bringing in, is that something that you see people coming up against… How do they react to that? What’s the fix?

0:08:48.5 S2: I love that you bring up trust, trust is so important in the talent strategy process, so I think… I don’t know if there’s a silver bullet fix, I wish there was, but that would make life too easy, it wouldn’t be as fun. When you think about bringing in people and you think about starting to create that trust, you have to get really honest with what you’re good at and start getting curious about those things that someone else is good at, because when you take the time to get to know them, you take the time to ask questions, to get curious, to learn from that person, you will automatically become more trustworthy towards them because you’re gonna realize how much more information they have about a particular topic than you have. But if you’re not taking the time to have great conversations in the workplace, you’re not taking the time to really get to know someone and get curious, then it is hard to build trust, it’s hard to be okay with someone making decisions around your business, and we see it all the time, where someone starts a fantastic business and then they get to a place where they don’t enjoy it, they don’t like what they’re having to do, and it’s because their job evolves and they haven’t thought about Where do I play the best role, where do I provide the most success to this organization and being okay, where that’s not at in hiring people who can do that.

0:10:15.5 S2: And it breaks my heart every time I see someone who starts a company and just doesn’t enjoy it, because their jobs evolved and they haven’t thought about how to stay in their core genius and how they continue to do what they love. But you can do that, that you have to, again, be very thoughtful to it, you have to create trust, you have to be open to looking at things differently, but the price at the other end or the pay-off, I guess at the other end of that is really enjoying what you built, and that’s incredibly important.

0:10:50.0 S1: So it seems like this idea of having a trust and building those relationships leads very neatly into the next thing I wanted to ask you about, which is your Conversational Intelligence coaching. Can you give me an idea what that is about?

0:11:07.9 S2: Absolutely, so conversation intelligence is really taking what we’ve all been told to think about emotional intelligence, and it takes it to the next level, it helps us start to understand how our language and the workplace impacts people’s level of fear and innovation and how we use language and how we understand our chemical reactions will impact our business results, we just talked about trust, and with trust, you get innovation, you get problem solving, you get all of these things that can drive your business and do great things, but if you are leading from the point of fear, you are shutting down the opportunity for trust and innovation, you’re actually shutting down the parts of the brain that control emotions, that control problem solving, that you come up with new ideas, the higher the fear, the less access you have towards those things you’re wanting. And so, conversation intelligence really helps us start to think about how to reduce fear in the workplace so that we can increase trust and innovation through our language.

0:12:18.4 S1: And I noticed as well that you mentioned, and I’m not sure really how this connects, but it seems like they should be somehow connected, this idea of trusting others, but also the idea of being addicted to being right, and maybe that can be extended a little bit to being addicted to having the best idea or having your idea executed, is that something that is what you’re seeing or is that just what.

0:12:48.1 S2: Is… Yeah, we see that addiction to being right, and it’s interesting, they’ve done research on individuals who have addiction, so if you are addicted to sugar or substance or shopping, my favorite addiction, shopping. And then when you… We all know and we can all accept that when you’re addicted to something, you get a dopamine hit and then that’s not enough, so you need more of it to get the bigger dopamine hit not… Starts to grow, the same thing happens to someone who’s addicted to being right, when they’re right, they get a DOP and mean hit, but then the next time they have to be even more right. You have to be more in control. And that is an addiction, and you have to understand that that can happen, because when we have leaders who maybe have grown up in their… Grown in their prayer really quickly, maybe they were top performers very early, and so they kind of skyrocketed their career and they were always right, they can start to get addicted to that, but then what happens as their career progresses, if you are addicted to being right and you can’t hear the truth from anyone in your realm, your team, your business partners or cross-functional partners, then you’re not…

0:14:05.0 S2: You can’t know everything, you can’t see what the actual truth is, and you start to make decisions that are very much in a silo without any input, and I’m based in the US, and there’s some great examples of US companies that… That happened to Kodak, which was a huge US company that sold film and cameras, they actually had the first digital camera, and they thought that no one would ever want a digital camera… That’s silly. Why would you ever want that? Well, because they weren’t open to new ideas and they thought they were so right on what they knew, they did not listen to other people who invented that, they didn’t listen to him, and the rest is history, everyone else move forward with a digital camera, and they didn’t… Netflix is another great example. There was a company in the US called blockbusters who had stores that you bought, you did buy, but you read and Blockbuster CEO thought the idea of having DVD sent to your house was selling, someone would wanna go and get it. And so they could have bought Netflix for pennies on the dollar, now, we know Netflix is doing amazing well, and Blockbuster is belly up and is no longer there, but those are examples of being addicted to your own ideas and not seeing what’s coming…

0:15:33.3 S1: So here’s the question then, if you are addicted to being right or you suspect you may be, or that someone on your team is, how do you help them to recover from that addiction?

0:15:44.5 S2: Well, with all good addictions, admitting is the first step, as we know about what you have to start doing is I always… When I work with high-level executives, I always say When you drive home at the end of the day, or in the world, we work a lot of remote at the end of the day, and you’re kind of closing up. Ask yourself, what did I learn today? And if you didn’t learn something from your team, then there’s a good chance you’re probably addicted to your own ideas because people aren’t telling you anything else, and then you have to start getting curious, you have to start using your language to open up conversations. And one of the things that I teach all leaders to say, especially those who have a little bit of that addiction, is when someone comes to you with an idea that you don’t like or you don’t think will work, you can be honest and you can say, I don’t see it. But then you follow that up with a, change my mind. Because what that says is, I don’t see it, but I’m open to seeing your point, I’m open to differences of opinion, I’m open to learning and being curious, and that creates this conversation where if that person has a fantastic idea, now you’re learning about it, and it just really changes the atmosphere on how people problem-solve and think of innovation, where you can say things like, I don’t see it, but change my mind, and you’re able to talk about these differences of opinions in a way that’s comfortable, in a way that’s productive.

0:17:09.6 S2: And oftentimes, people change the executives mind, oftentimes, they go, You know what, you’re right, I haven’t seen that, or maybe somewhere in the middle, there’s an idea that we can use, but it’s such a great statement for leaders to use to keep innovation flowing in the workplace.

0:17:27.0 S1: Just leading on from that, actually, as you were talking about it, something came up and it’s this idea that when we ourselves are in a good frame of mind, then we are much more likely to be able to approach things that way, but when you are maybe in a stressful or chaotic or overworked frame of mind, you’re probably less likely to be able to hear those things coming in, it’s the whole self-care ideas, is that something that you are recommending to people as part of keeping all this imbalance or is there another way.

0:18:05.3 S2: Self-care is always good. There’s never a reason not to take care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. I think that in the workplace, when we start to feel overwhelmed or stress, we have to recognize there’s a good chance that we are having our own situation with fear, we’re dealing with our own fear, and part of self-care is coming to terms with the fear you may be having… And so if there’s something going on your business, so it’s a difficult time, instead of just focusing 100% on the problem and just trying to control it and clamping down and being highly directive, stop and say, What am I fearful? Fear of, if I wasn’t in fear, what would be my next move, because you can’t manage your way through a problem with all fear, because you’re closing down the access to all the really good ideas, and so that’s the first step when you’re overwhelmed and… Just everything is going on. Self-care is around being friendly with the fears that you have and being honest with those and becoming friends with them so that you can manage them. Yeah.

0:19:16.0 S1: And even just, I guess from a very basic level of if somebody comes to you and you’ve been doing an all-nighter and you have not eaten and you turn on the Han reheat, then you’re probably not good… You’re not gonna be able to work so well with the incoming information… Yeah, a lot of overload there, but just… That was one other thing that you’ve mentioned again in your information, which is probably quite fascinating just from an observer point of view, but it sounds like you’ve seen a lot of power plays in the companies and in board rooms and so on that you work with, what are the kind of things that people can say, Oh, you know what, I think I see a power play going on here.

0:20:02.2 S2: So power plays are all based in fear also, and one of the things that I think that we lack in today’s workforce is understanding the power of collaboration. And so what happens is, maybe you start out and you’re an individual contributor and you kinda do your job, and then you get promoted to manager and you’re so focused on your team, taking care of your team, then you’re a director or vice president, whatever you’re growing and your career is progressing, but then at some point, we have to start thinking about protecting the organization over our own best interest, and that’s where power play start to come in when you have the group of people who are in charge, for a lack of better term, and they’re protecting their self and their team over protecting the company, then that’s the power place, it’s saying, Well, I’m not giving up this resource because my team means it well, but does… Or, what does the organization need? And that’s where you start to see a lot of infighting in leadership groups is because they’re protecting themselves versus protecting the objective of the organization and understanding that give and take, and understanding that sometimes one department will get more than the other, but that could flip the next quarter, but if we’re constantly fighting for our own personal needs, it becomes really miserable because it’s like every day you wake up to go to battle instead of saying, Hey, I’ve got this amazing organization who’s got this amazing concept, and I am here as a collective group to support it, they’re just really busy kind of protecting their ground or protecting their land, there’s a term that I hear a lot, land rapping where executives trying on land grab, they take someone else’s department or they try to take something that they don’t really belong in, but they wanna show that they’re so great, but all of that comes from the fear of not looking good in front of their boss or the fear of not protecting their team, again, it all goes back to that fear and not protecting the greater good from.

0:22:15.3 S1: All the things that we’ve talked about here today on… The thing that is coming to my mind is that we’re really talking about abundance versus loss or lack or ant way, it’s being able to see that for water days as it plays out in our daily actions, people are probably doing all their mantras and manifestations and all of these other things. But I guess at the end of the day, that talk has to be walked as well as we take our actions.

0:22:46.9 S2: It does, and it’s not easy. It is not easy to wake up every day, especially if you have started to organization, so all you’re responsible for your finances, the finances of the company, the finances for the people who you provided paycheck too. There’s a lot of just core fear in that, and so it’s not easy to continue to walk in what you talk, but it is something that when people master it, they can really, again, find that joy as a leader, find that joy as someone who started a company but when we set and fear, it’s so hard to enjoy it, and there’s nothing that’s more exciting to watch someone create something and love it every single day when they wake up.

0:23:37.2 S1: Jen, that is really, really wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. And for anybody who has taken a message or heard something that they needed to hear from what Jennifer’s had to say today, I would absolutely encourage you to go and look at some of the resources that Jen has. Do you want to give us the main website for people to go to, Jen, I’ll also put it in the show notes, but just so we absolutely know what we’re going…

0:24:02.3 S2: Absolutely, so you can go to 304coaching.com. We have a lot of resources there. You can go to our YouTube channel at Jen Thornton at 304 Coaching, and then you can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jen Thornton ACC.

0:24:15.7 S1: Super. That is amazing, thank you so much. I will see you in Manahan, you have a great day. You’re still here. Great, I know there’s a lot to choose from out there, so thanks for flying with ambition incubator airlines, and I look forward to seeing you on board again soon, seriously though, thank you for coding in my guess, and I love hearing about what inspires you on the show, and what advice has made a difference in your life or work and what you do like more of… So get in touch if you wanna know about my other work, head over to ambitionincubator.com details, and don’t forget to hit subscribe for more great interviews, advice and bite-sized brain science every week.

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