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A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Farming

Posted by Amy Wilson on June 4, 2008

As a manager, I much prefer to farm people than to hunt them. Let’s face it, hunting (or recruiting) is a pain and farming (or developing) is satisfying and often leads to lasting relationships. Producing and selling a crop can also be rewarding. Other people benefit and the product of your labors moves onto a new experience (i.e. made into a tasty pie). There is an important aspect of letting go, though, that I failed to mention in my prior post and that is you now have nothing. You just sold your prized possession … How are you going to feed your family?

I was reminded of this cruel reality by a friend of mine from my development manager days. He read my job hopping post and related it to his own experiences …

I’m intrigued at the idea of supporting the transfer of good talent every 2-3 years. I think my fear in letting go of good talent is that if not everyone else supports this at the same time, then I may not get top talent coming in, and w/o top talent I’m seriously hampered in my abilities to accomplish goals as a team. And, life is hell w/o top talent, it makes all the difference in the world. It does seem obvious that these transfers are good for the individual and for the company, but not necessarily for the manager who’s got to meet demands and timeliness. I’m not sure senior management fosters an environment of growing resources and talent versus a focus on getting the work done quickly but with great quality. Managers aren’t rewarded for how much coaching they provided, or how much their team or specific individuals improved.

Great insight from a manager who spends a lot of time building up his people and has a loyal following.

Managers are the key to talent development, but supporting them and incenting them as talent developers and producers is critical. Managers need to feel assured that the organization “has their back” when giving up a talented resource and that includes a recognition that a replacement headcount is not enough. (Though at least it’s a start)

4 Responses to “A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Farming”

  1. Mark Bennett said

    This is a great post.

    “I’m not sure senior management fosters an environment of growing resources and talent versus a focus on getting the work done quickly but with great quality.”

    This so true. Many managers have played the “Xs and Ys” game (either in a class or in real-life) and witnessed the results of what happens when the criteria and scope of success have not been made clear and supported by reward structures. A culture of trust can also help avoid these “prisoner dilemma” problems, but whatever culture you have is guided by the behaviors and values demonstrated by senior management.

  2. Meg Bear said

    and I do think an important counter point to the manager’s dilemma is that if you don’t help people move on they will find their own way and you will have lost them anyway. Better take the long-term view of the game and brand yourself as someone who is good to work for and even better to HAVE worked for.

  3. Ashu Gupta said


    GE had (and I believe still has) that an employee should (read it as must) find a new role with GE after spending three years. I am not saying that employees should be forced to find another role after staying in a role, but senior management should encourage (at least not discourage or feel frightened) its talent to move so that other groups can benefit as well as talent can groom. I think at the end of the day, it is a win-win for everyone.

  4. vivianwwong said

    Sometimes having top talents leaving the group is a blessing. You may then discover that you have hidden gems in your team who were in the shadow of your star performer. It is quite rewarding for both the manager and the team members when you nurture these gems into your new stars!

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