The ‘What’ And ‘How’ Of Business

The fundamental purpose of every business is to provide value to its customers. Once ‘what’ that value is, and ‘how’ it will be generated, has been conceptualized, it then boils down to getting the right people. Ultimately, it is the people who make the value come alive, first within, and then outside in the marketplace. It is no surprise therefore that most companies recognize the importance of having a sound talent team in place, especially at middle and senior management levels. This is evident in the zealous focus they have on talent acquisition and then leveraging those skills to the fullest. However, it is my belief that companies falter after this juncture. They believe that merely hiring someone appropriate for the role will get the job done, while I would contend that is a job well begun, but only half done. 

 

Given today’s times, it is imperative for organizations at large and middle and senior level leaders to realize that the most crucial role of a leader is to develop more leaders. That is the only way organizations can succeed and win in the middle and long term. However, the reality is different. You may have observed that many mid-level managers and senior leaders spend disproportionate time utilizing and honing the functional skills and capabilities of their teams, but hardly any, in developing their leadership potential. Which is why it is easier to find managers who are domain experts, but tougher to find those who are good people, developers.

 

While this may be contested by some who may even argue that given the sheer demands of work, they are doing a good balancing act of building people and driving business. How else would it be possible for them to drive their teams to consistently perform and outperform? They are great believers in giving the periodic pep talk. They also work with and/or handhold their teams and not just blindly delegate everything. Some would even contend how they make sure their teams attend trainings and conferences on a periodic basis to up their knowledge and skills. While all the above is necessary, it is insufficient. Because there is a difference between managing people and developing them. Managing gets the work done, developing gets growth-both for the individual and for the organization.

 

Is HR not responsible for developing people?

 

The obvious answer lies in deputing this task to the Human Resource function. While this is not wrong, it is my view that development is not the sole responsibility of HR. Indeed, they should play a vital role. First and foremost, HR is responsible for creating a culture where leadership development is seen as a priority. It should make visible, opportunities that exist for people development across various streams of the organization. It should actively engage with leaders and supervisors, to implant and sustain the relevance of building talent. It can acknowledge and give due credit to those who are embracing this.

 

“HR should make visible, opportunities that exist for people development across various streams of the organization and actively engage with leaders and supervisors, to implant and sustain the relevance of building talent, and, give due credit to those embracing this.”

 

However, to help employees achieve their full potential, HR requires the commitment and partnership of the supervisors. This is because given the frequent interactions they have with the teams; supervisors are best placed to know their aspirations, capabilities and development areas. Supervisors will also be the right individuals for assessing their progress and guiding them to become better.

 

Talent development: An added task

 

This may seem as an added burden to the Managers. On the contrary, I have witnessed that when the leadership builds leaders, work gets done better. Furthermore, it is in the supervisor’s own interest to focus on their team’s development. Enhanced capability and better emotional intelligence of employees imply that supervisors can spend lesser time guiding and sharing feedback. Their bandwidth can get released from running daily business chores, allowing them to do a whole lot more, such as, meet new people to gain fresh insights, grasp new technology, network more, keep a tab on non-traditional competition and take up new projects, all of which enrich them as well as the organization.

 

Supervisors themselves require coaching

 

At this juncture, it is important to acknowledge that even if the supervisors themselves realize the benefits of developing their teams, they may not be equipped to turn this intent into action. Again, HR can pitch in. It can share best practices and recommend relevant learning and training programs. It can periodically track progress and alleviate concerns that come along the way.  

 

Understandably, the art of learning how to groom leaders is time-consuming. Given that it requires supervisors to work for months, sometimes years, and, have genuine empathy for their people. Knowing when to empower and when to direct, when to challenge and when not to rock the boat and when to test their team; these skills cannot be learned overnight. But once acquired, the efforts will pay off handsomely.

 

What does the outcome look like?   

 

When leaders are just as passionate about developing their teams, as they are about their line of work, simply put, magic happens.

 

1. Their teams battle hurdles better

2. They feel a stronger sense of affiliation with the organization

3. They are less likely to throw in the towel when confronted with challenges   

4. They are more likely to find solutions to people, process or resource issues, on their own.

 

This effectively leads to an organization that not merely comprises of smart and competent people, but one that is also motivated, efficient, and, has a ready pool of talent grown from within, to take on senior roles in future.  

 

The flipside though is also true. When managers fail to take care of their people, it hurts the organization in the medium and long run. Employees do not feel energized. Monetary incentives are necessary to be doled out more often. When employees do not feel valued, the good ones are bound to leave. Often the cost of attrition is hidden. Many organizations keep tight control on costs otherwise - rein in departmental budgets, keep a vigilant eye on margins, keep looking for ways to reduce operational expenses, and so on. But these organizations may sometimes not recognize the cost of losing their talent. Organizations must believe in the importance of developing their people. When supervisors and leaders consciously grow their teams, the entire organization creates better and more long-lasting value for its customers.

 

“Organisations may sometimes not recognize the cost of losing their talent.  They must believe in the importance of developing their people. When they consciously grow their teams, the entire organization creates better and more long-lasting value for its customers.”

 

Shailesh Singh is Director & Chief People Officer at Max Life Insurance. He wields a near about experience of 25 years and has worked in multiple HR leadership roles in GE Energy, GE Supply-chain, GE Capital, SRF Finance, Eicher Tractors and National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). In his last role, he worked as Country HR Leader for GE India Supply-chain. Shailesh is a Graduate from Delhi University and a Post Graduate from IRMA, Gujarat.

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