Talent Management

Timeless principles of creative management


“The management of manpower resources is one of the most important duties of our office heads. It is particularly important for them to spot people of unusual promise early in their careers, and to move them up the ladder as fast as they can handle increased responsibility.

There are five characteristics which suggest to me that a person has the potential for rapid promotion:

  • He is ambitious.
  • He works harder than his peers — and enjoys it.
  • He has a brilliant brain — inventive and unorthodox.
  • He has an engaging personality.
  • He demonstrates respect for the creative function.

If you fail to recognize, promote and reward young people of exceptional promise, they will leave you; the loss of an exceptional man can be as damaging as the loss of an account.”

David Ogilvy



The biggest lesson I learnt when I moved overseas

In August, I embarked on a journey with my partner Brian to relocate from Australia to the United States. We had been wanting to experience living and working overseas for some time, so when an opportunity presented itself to do so earlier this year we put up our house for rent, eBay’d my cocktail dresses and started a journey that would eventually lead us to what some call the Greatest City On Earth, New York City.

I could share tips with you on how to network in a new city or silly facts like the fact that sunscreen is unregulated in the United States (I learnt the hard way that Walgreens SPF 30+ will do you no good in Puerto Rico – stock up on sunscreen at home).

But the biggest lesson I learnt? To say thanks. You will need to seek out and accept help from others as you go along and invariably, you will have little to give them at the time in return. That’s okay, so long as you remember to find your own way to thank them and to express what their support meant to you at that point of time on your journey.

So to all those people who have helped me get to where I am today – for gestures big or small and irrespective of any previous votes of thanks – thank you.

Agile Leadership · Leadership Development

Part One: Developing Agile Leadership

Much is published on agile leadership and the business imperative behind it. Who a leader should be, what they should do and why it is needed permeates the literature. Less is published on the far greater challenge – how do we actually get there? And how do you ensure that all levels of leadership, from frontline to CEO are committed to growing an agile organisation?

Most companies are not flexible enough to compete successfully, although business responsiveness is seen as key to global success. When IBM interviewed over 1500 CEOs, the top factor to succeeding in this turbulent environment was how to embody creative leadership through embracing ambiguity, taking risks that challenge the status quo, instituting new management styles and making faster decisions.

How do organisations develop a culture of agile leadership?

In today’s environment, there is a need for teams to constantly learn and adapt through authentic engagement and open-mindedness, and for leaders to behave differently to energise, empower and enable teams to achieve competitive advantage.

Leadership change often focuses on process change rather than people change. I believe that true transformational change starts with helping people change.

Creating a culture of agile leadership requires an organisation to:

  • Define and develop agile leadership
  • Support behavioral change with just-in-time tools
The first step is to define and communicate what agile leadership looks like

I have observed teams where it was seen as enough for a leader to be “supporting” an agile initiative or attending an agile ceremony to show face. I knew this was not enough. Leaders need to really embrace agile values, principles and practices to truly be inspired and to inspire others.

The first step in developing a culture of agile leadership is to define and communicate what agile leadership looks like for your organisation. It’s important to remember that what works for one organisation might not work for another. Do leaders know how to form teams? Can they act with influence and impact? Do they have the skills to listen and learn from others? Do they know how to baseline performance and measure uplift?

Spotify is a great example of building your own brand of agile leadership: after a not-so-favourable experience with Scrum, Spotify developed and implemented a leadership framework that was heavily influenced by agile methodologies AND the cultural values the company held dear.

People need to permission to change to be energised by a new way of working. The culture of an organisation is driven from the top; effective change is driven by consistent communication of values, principles and practices across the organisation.

It’s important to remember that leadership communication flows two ways – each opportunity to tell is an opportunity to listen.

Building leadership practices into a simple, memorable statement and DNA is a great way to clarify and simplify leadership expectations and ensure strong coherence to the cultural values of your organisation.

Agile Leadership · Leadership Development

Business Agility – what it is and why you should care

Business Agility

In the long run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is your organisation’s ability to learn faster than your competition – Peter Senge

As the world becomes increasingly volatile and unpredictable, imagine the possibilities if organisations could develop the capabilities to respond quickly to changes in the business environment without losing momentum or vision and continue to meet customer needs.

Kodak – The battleship that didn’t turn

Kodak is an oft-cited example of poor business agility. The story is that the company was too slow, too complacent to react to the threat that digital photography presented to the film industry. This missed opportunity was the direct cause of Kodak’s decades-long decline as the new medium destroyed its film-based business model.

Today, as I share videos of my friends on SnapChat and pictures of my food on Instagram while neglecting the stream of pointless cat memes on Facebook, I wonder if the once-trailblazing social media giant might suffer the same unfortunate fate unless it innovates to meet more of my needs.

Creating adaptability, innovation, collaboration and speed

Agility is not just an organisation’s ability to change. It is the ability of the organisation to fundamentally reshape itself around highly nimble, engaged and resilient talent and learning experiences that deliver innovation to enable it to compete in a rapidly changing world.

Bersin helps us to understand that the role of HR in creating an agile organisation is not just to implement controls and standards but rather, to drive programs that create adaptability, innovation, collaboration and speed. Some of the core ingredients for success are:

Build a focus on continuous learning and learning culture at all levels

At the heart of a learning organisation lies the belief that enormous human potential lies locked and undeveloped in our organisations. It goes without saying that leadership is critical to the transition to becoming a ‘learning organisation’. In his 1990 book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge talks to the notion of leaders as designers, stewards and teachers who are ‘responsible for building organisations where people continually expand their capabilities to understand complexity, clarify vision and improve shared mental models’. The decentralisation of the leadership role in an organisation enhances the capacity of all people to work productively toward common goals.

Facilitate the creation of self-organising teams that interact with customers daily and work together toward the same goal

Small teams are revered in the technology industry for their ability to adapt readily to changing business demands. Bill Gates and Google CEO Eric Schmidt among others have praised small teams as the ideal structure to get good work done. The key to success is empowering a team to set its own goals. With the ability and authority to make decisions the team has a greater sense of ownership and commitment and can manage its work as a group. The basis for a self-organising team is trust and respect.

Train your leaders to be coaches, not managers

Coaches empower teams to create autonomy by inspiring confidence and belief, supporting mastery and setting a clear purpose. They hold teams accountable for delivering results and regulate tension for innovation. These elements enable team members to taking ownership for their learning and to develop the skills they need to operate in a self-organising team.

Originally posted on 4 July on LinkedIn.