For too long, we have been mesmerised by the talent of the individual. This singular focus has perpetuated the myth of superstar leaders, heroic top performers and up-and-coming talent. Most organisations have the recruitment philosophy of seeking only the brightest and the best, but are these principles enough to deliver the long-term value needed for today’s organisations?

Successful leaders = successful relationships

How is it that a star performer in one organisation fails to deliver equal value in another? By focusing only on the talents of an individual, we underestimate the influence of personal/professional networks, and the alignment between the culture and purpose of the organisation and individual. In his article Being the change you want to see: developing the leadership culture at Ernst & Young, Peter Hawkins highlights that successful leadership resides in the relationships leaders create, not within the leaders themselves.

Being aware of the formal/informal network within a system and having knowledge of stakeholders means that individuals (especially talent grown internally) have a shortcut to success. The more global and complex the organisation, the more capable an individual needs to be in identifying all networks and then operating effectively within them.

An interlinked approach to development

Syat’s Triple8 model has created an interlinked approach to development at every level – organisational, team and individual:

  • Me: The focus is on understanding the individual, their personal needs and development goals within the context of the business strategy. It’s about discovering what drives the individual, what s/he need from work, and how this relates to the organisation’s long-term ambitions.
  • Me / You: Look at the relationships within the individual’s immediate team – the mix of personalities, approaches, synergies, challenges and potential for success. The team could be the country board, but equally, key stakeholders will be the global operating board as well as global function heads.
  • Us: This addresses the system and organisation as a whole. This focuses on performance and contribution either as a department or a business unit to the wider organisational entity. How much clarity is there around stakeholder expectations? How will contribution be assessed? What are global drivers for success? How are these delivered through the business unit strategy and targets? What skills and competencies are required to meet expectations and deliver success?

The benefits of collective development

This approach is exceptionally useful when helping senior leaders embrace the need for individual and collective development. Imagine a senior management team or board coming together to refine their strategic plan – what opportunity! This could create:

  • A focus on strategic leadership
  • Operational excellence through teamwork to deliver the strategy
  • Functional integration to enhance understanding of roles and deliverables
  • Improved individual capability.

It’s a case of couching the coaching within a business framework.

Development that reflects business needs

This is about delivering value to the organisation by ensuring individual development is actively rooted within the context of the business agenda and investing for longer-term gain. We need to understand how the individual works – their approach to interaction and networking, personal values and qualities, how they manage and influence others to deliver effective achievements and potential individual contribution to supporting the wider organisation in its strategic ambitions.

This approach focuses on ensuring that individual and team development reflects strategic business needs, providing success for all parties. That’s what’s really important. Not the top talent pipeline, star performers or heroic leaders.

Written by Jacqueline McCartney, organisation development practitioner

Jacki McCartney is an experienced organisation development practitioner with a successful track record in improving the performance of organisations, people and teams by focusing on the enhancement of internal capability to match market opportunity.

Jacki has extensive international management consultancy experience having worked in the Middle East, Europe and the USA. Formally European Director of Training & Development with an American based consultancy, Jacki has also had 14 years as internal consultant and senior manager in sales and marketing with global telecommunications operator.

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