The Talent Mindset of Leaders

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Unlocking the talent mindset of your leadership style, whether you are a front-line supervisor or the CEO, is the first essential key to sustaining strong talent practices.

The talent mindset can be defined as having the understanding and ability to recruit, retain, and recognize talent in individuals that can be effectively deployed and continuously developed towards a specific purpose that aligns the individual’s strengths and motivations to the short and long-term goals of the organization. 

McKinsey & Company in their book “The War for Talent” examined high performing organizations in comparison to cohorts. The single biggest factor in distinguishing the best organizations was the talent mindset of leadership. Through their research they found that companies with strong talent practices earned 22% higher shareholder returns than their peers.

Not only does our company’s research confirm this top level fact presented by McKinsey & Company, but we have also uncovered that even in high performing companies we have served there are disparities between operational units. When analyzing the data we will invariably find certain business units with high employee engagement scores while other business units score significantly lower. The root cause for this disparity in scores between departments, in almost all cases, is differences in the leadership styles of departmental managers.

Unlocking your talent mindset provides significant benefits to you and to your organization like: building stronger relationships with your team; spending less time managing problems and more time leading people; being able to delegate projects and tasks more easily; becoming the top performing department in your organization; and you will exponentially increase your status with the ‘powers that be’ in your organization.

Is Your Organization Supportive of the Talent Mindset?

It is the responsibility of executives and HR professionals to weave and cultivate the talent mindset into the culture and strategy of the organization. Executives lead the way and demonstrate that developing and properly deploying talent is a strategic priority. HR Professionals support this by developing the processes, technology, and development opportunities that will support talent strategy implementation for leaders and employees. For your organization, ask yourself, an executive, or your HR manager the following questions:

  • Does the executive team have a deep conviction that talent is a major factor to organizational success?
  • Does the CEO spends at least 20% of his/her time on talent related issues?
  • Do people typically get up the learning curve quickly after being hired?
  • Are there strong development programs in place to further develop an individual’s skills?
  • Are individual development plans in place for everyone?
  • Are employees given the opportunity to do what they do best?
  • Are managers held accountable for developing talent?
  • Do you use metrics to assess the strength of talent management?

The answers to these questions will help to identify how important talent development is to the executives of your organization. Regardless of the processes and technology that your organization may have in place currently, unlocking the talent mindset in your leadership style should happen today if it hasn’t happened already. 

Engaging the Talent Mindset in Your Leadership Style

The fact that you are reading this article suggests that you are motivated to be an advocate of talent.  Now, do your day-to-day actions demonstrate this motivation? 

Below is a short self-assessment to indicate your current approach to the talent mindset. You can rate yourself on the statements below in whatever way you wish. The purpose is to get you thinking of your daily routines and where can you develop new routines to increase your talent mindset and the performance of your team.

  • I have the best interest of my employees in mind.
  • I treat each employee with respect and am committed to help each person achieve his or her goals.
  • I regularly recognize employees who live the organization’s values and achieve excellent results.
  • My hiring standards are very high.
  • My employees understand what is expected of them.
  • I have performance coaching discussions with my staff regularly throughout the year.
  • I provide specific feedback when necessary.
  • I follow up on feedback discussions.
  • I know the strengths and weaknesses of all my employees.
  • Individual development plans and discussions are held with each of my employees.

Once you have identified your strengths and challenges, develop your own individual development plan. Your development plan should target no more than two new talent mindset competencies to develop at a time, and your plan should be prioritized in a way where your growth is focused on the competencies that would provide the greatest impact for you, your team, and your department/organization.

Look to other leaders that demonstrate these competencies and ask them to help you. Talk to your HR department to ask for support. Track and measure your progress and the benefits that you see within your team or environment. Ask for feedback from your employees, peers and managers. 


Guest contributor, Michael Snyders HCS, CIM, is a Senior Partner with Future Focus Inc.

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