In search of Yoda

Performance management and talent management have long been the biggest sources of conflict between HR and the business. Despite endless search for objective data in the form of surveys, 360 reviews and even assessment centers, they remain largely subjective conversations that happen both inside and outside the boardroom. This is how careers are really made and broken. “Andrea thinks he’s a good guy”; “Ron thinks he can do more” and hence a new king is born.

Meanwhile, the debate rages on during talent management reviews. “He’s delivered amazing business results but can he coach and inspire his people?” I’ve seen HR fight for the people agenda countless times, trying to ensure that our future leadership have a strong people management emphasis, fighting for our leaders to become the perfect coach. Extensive training courses, endless evaluations, elaborate mentoring programs, e-learning suites, you name it, we’ve all tried to create these perfect coaches who, in parallel, can be trusted to deliver amazing results. Consultancies profit from our quest by introducing new fads and models that promise this time, we will reach this Holy Grail. But where have we got to? Have we created the perfect coaches? I struggle to think of any organization where leaders are uniformly as strong on the people agenda as they are on the delivery of business results. Maybe we expect too much, maybe we are not so much in search of great leaders, as much as we are in search of Yoda! But let’s face it, there aren’t many Yoda’s out there. Do we need to rethink all of this?

We have been trying to make coaching work in business for over 20 years but perhaps we need to revisit how we think of coaching? What if the organization could drive a growth oriented culture where we all contribute to each other’s’ learning? Why rest the sole responsibility for growth and development of our people at one person’s door, the unfortunate leader who has so many expectations on his shoulders he may not know where to start! I don’t’ know a child in this world who hasn’t benefited from a multiple of adults, who have helped them grow and develop. Of course, the parents are the biggest influence, but aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors all feel a responsibility and play a role in their development. What if our organization could reflect society in this way? Everyone has a responsibility to help each other grow and develop. Similar to the way our villages used to raise the kids, organizations could raise up the employee to become the best version of ourselves.

Our ways of working have changed so dramatically, we spend more time with our peers and colleagues, than our boss. Our limited face time with our bosses mean we can easily show only one side of our performance, whereas our colleagues often understand a much more rounded version of us. If they were to give us feedback, chances are they see so much more in us and can truly help our development. They better understand our strengths and weaknesses and can deliver insightful feedback on a regular basis. I’m not for a second advocating that Managers shouldn’t take a primary role in developing their people. I’m just suggesting that they aren’t the sole architect of an employee’s development and rooting for it to be a wider effort. Entering an organization would become like entering a new phase of your learning and opening yourself to feedback coming from anyone, anywhere, that would accelerate your growth.

Just think about it, a culture where we go to grow and become the best version of ourselves, supported by bosses, peers and colleagues alike. Now there’s an organization I’d love to meet!

Author: Aisling Teillard, CEO Tandem