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There’s No “I” in “TEAM” and Talent Reviews Can Help

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on April 1, 2011

So many top companies are expanding thier use of talent review meetings more broadly and deeper into thier organizations.  I mean if it’s good for the top executives, it’s got to be a good practice for other critical areas and roles too.

I just read an article in the latest McKinsey Quarterly entitled “Three steps to building a better top team” that got me thinking about the use of talent reviews to enable building a better team.  Talent reviews focus a lot on the individual and ensuring everyone is on the same page about the talent in the group.  And well run talent review meetings also ensure that part of that conversation is about the development needs of the talent.  Talent reviews are also a great way to ensure you have the right skill mix, seniority, geographical focus and other key attributes for the particular team you’re looking to staff.

“Get the right people on the team … and the wrong ones off” speaks to the benefits a talent review can bring not only to building a good team, but also tweaking the team make up when needed.  For critical teams you should reassess the team via talent reviews on a quarterly to half yearly basis to ensure the team is staffed to its best potential for success.  You’d hate to wait a year before reassessing and realize that there was a major flaw in the staffing of the team which resulted in less than stellar achievements.

I’m in love with talent reviews.  They are just so darn versatile and can be used to support such a wide variety of business and HR needs.  If you’ve not conducted one in your organization, get started now.  Start small if you need to and build the practice.  You’ll love the results.

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To Talent Pools … and Beyond

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on November 5, 2010

If you’ve not been paying attention to the Succession Management process lately, you may have missed that many leading organizations are addressing their succession planning needs through talent pools.  Many don’t even create individual role based succession plans and rely solely on the talent pools to provide their up-and-coming talent.  So what are talent pools exactly and how do they differ from the more traditional succession plans?

Talent Pools are employees that are grouped together for a common promotion, job or leadership development purpose.  Some of the means of determining talent pool membership includes manager defined, 360 degree feedback and Talent Reviews.  HR typically helps drive leadership development curriculum appropriate for the group to help the talent pool meet the goals management has for it.  Some times the members are told they’re in the pool and other times it is kept more quiet.  Members are developed and if all goes well the talent pool becomes the primary place to source the talent from when the succession need comes up.  Unlike traditional succession plans, talent pools are not necessarily tied to a job or position or incumbent, but rather are a pool that is being developed and groomed for one to many jobs or career paths.

In the Toy Story movies, Buzz Lightyear has a favorite saying “To infinity … and beyond”.  To Buzz, it’s great to have the goal of reaching infinity, but it’s even better to aim for more.  More beyond the thinking of the day.  Talent Pools are a great way to achieve your succession and development needs.  However, there’s the possibility of so much more.  Let’s think beyond the basics here and strive for something more… something truly collaborative.  Let’s provide the talent pool members with tools to become a collaborative community.  Let’s provide them networking opportunities, collaboration spaces, and the ability to develop their community so that not only are they learning from the talent pool curriculum of training, experience and mentoring, they are also learning from each other and supporting each others’ growth.  These relationships they form could really help them become more successful down the road as their talent pool peers get placed into new roles.

While Talent Pool succession planning is a worthy objective, to reach beyond that goal to one where Talent Pools are versatile, collaborative and interactive places for learning, development and networking is truly the goal.  “To Infinity … and beyond”.  I like the way Buzz thinks.

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What’s Your IQ?

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on July 29, 2010

What is your Innovation Quotient (IQ) or what could also be called your Creativity Quotient (CQ)?

The Glass Hammer hosted Women in IT: Staying Technical and Getting to the Top and held a recent panel discussion at Goldman Sachs‘ West Street headquarters.  The panel featured Dr. Caroline Simard, Vice President of Research and Executive Programs at the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.  On Innovation, “Dr. Simard said that her research showed that a disproportionate amount of women did not consider themselves innovators, compared to men. She said that a lot of this comes down to societal conditioning, and that, “We all have a responsibility to engage younger women in the innovation process.” 

Another panelist, Inna Pomeranz, Technology Fellow and chair of the WIT Technical Pillar at Goldman Sachs,  commented, “It may be a misconception of innovation as invention. In the business world it’s not necessarily about inventing as it is about solving problems in a new and creative ways that bring value to our business.” How can one become a better innovator, she asked? “Open up to new ideas and new solutions. Create atmosphere where ideas can flow. Innovation means risk – without risk there is no reward. Take more risks. I love change. Get involved with strategic initiatives for the firm that bring value to your business and provide an opportunity to influence the organization and reinforce your position as a change leader There is always risk. We all can make mistakes. I think we need to think about how to take calculated risk and how we can mitigate that risk.”

You can read more about the panel discussion on innovation and other related topics at The Glass ceiling’s blog post of the event, written by Melissa J. Anderson (New York City).

When I was in business school (ahem, just a few years back), one of the top lessons I learned from my mentor was about creativity in the workplace.  She asked me if I considered myself creative.  I said, “no, not really”, as I always associated creativity with artistic abilty or the ability to design something like an advertising ad (she happened to be an exec at an advertising agency).  She instantly corrected me and said that creativity was not only about artistic ability, it also meant being creative with your  problem solving and thinking out side the box around issues. I shifted my mindset from that point forward and decided I was creative.  And I’m expanding that to include innovative as well.

Don’t make the same mistake I did early on in my career.  Rather, be sure to get those creative juices flowing early and often.  And don’t forget to leave some breadcrumbs of your innovations along the way.

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Safra’s Top 10

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on May 12, 2010

Several of us from Oracle attended the 21st Annual Professional BusinessWomen of California conference today in San Francisco along with about 3,000 other business women.  While I knew Safra Catz, President of Oracle, was a keynote speaker, it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the day.  I now not only feel like I know Safra better, I have new insight into Oracle’s DNA based on her Top 10 things she wished someone had told her at the beginning of her career.  They really give you a sense of what Oracle is all about. 

#1 – You can never be #1 by chasing #1

  • You cannot run fast enough
  • You must do something different and think differently
  • Change lanes and make them react to you
  • You’re an idiot until you’re a genius

#2 – Scale matters

  • The more customers you have, the more you can spread your costs out
  • Scale is the key, not just size

#3 – Focus on what your real business is

  • Bigger is not better when it doesn’t add to your core business

#4 – If it doesn’t make sense… it doesn’t make sense

  • Don’t just sit back and believe that because it’s in a pretty powerpoint it must be true
  • Ask questions

#5 – Don’t stand still

  • You can’t beat the competition without moving
  • No motion — no progress
  • Make decisions and take actions
  • Even if you make a few mistakes along the way

#6 – Don’t chase fashion

  • While not standing still, don’t just change your strategy
  • Stick to your core competencies
  • You’ll become fashionable when you’re right

#7 – If you don’t ask, you don’t get

#8 – Just because everything can be put online doesn’t mean it should be

#9 – Integrity is key

  • You can recover from being stupid
  • You cannot recover from being a liar

#10 – Difference between her standing up on the podium and all of us in the audience is luck

  • Business is a team sport
  • And while often times the team is made up of mostly men…
  • Get in there!!!

Thanks Safra.

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Pork Chop on a Stick

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on March 9, 2009

porkchoponastickOr really anything on a stick is the food theme at the Iowa State Fair.  My extended family is all from the Des Moines area and I was back around fair time a few years ago.  That was the best darn pork chop I’d ever had and if you’re ever in the area of Iowa, Minn, Neb, or surrounding states, I highly recommended getting yourself one too. 

State Fairs remind me of carnivals and speaking of carnivals, The March Leadership Development Carnival was just posted on the Great Leadership by Dan blog.  Lots of great Leadership Development on a Stick for you to sample including my recent post on Circumstantial Potential.

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Circumstantial Potential

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on March 1, 2009

Does a person’s career potential vary depending on circumstances or rather is it the perception of potential that varies?  You be the judge.

One circumstance is whether the person is in the right position or not.  This will likely affect their performance.  If they are not in the right position, they may be unmotivated to show their best side.  Or they may be failing and their managers are unable to see past that to the real potential.

Another circumstance is whether the person fits with the management of the organization or not.  I worked with a guy once that was doing really well within the organization.  Over time, however, some key players within his management chain shifted and he just was not part of the in crowd of that organization.  He got moved around, repositioned with less and less responsibility until finally he’d been assigned to “special projects”.  It was clear that if he wanted growth opportunities, he needed to find a new position.  He did within the same company and low and behold, he was back on track again.  Did his potential wain during that time?  Or were other factors influencing the perception of his potential?

You hear about bringing out the most in a child by having high expectations of them.  So what happens when the child isn’t being held to the same high standards?   Does that child have less potential?

Potential is really a complex thing to ascertain and is dependent on so many variables.  Change one and their potential might come shining through.  Change another and it might get masked and hidden away.  It’s not tangible like performance which is based mostly on the past where goals were set and either were met or not. 

Potential is a fascinating thing to think about.  I plan to do a series of posts in the next few months delving deeper into how organizations assess their employees’ potential.  I welcome your comments about how you’ve seen potential assessed, whether you thought it was an effective method and what variables have you seen that can impact a person’s potential.

In the meantime, think about what overlay circumstances may be either bringing out your best potential or hiding it away.  What can you do to enhance the good ones and remove the limiting ones?

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Must Everything Change in a Down Economy?

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on January 9, 2009

It’s hard to miss that we’re in a down economy.  But some how it feels as if it was sprung on me.  As a Talent Management product strategist, I’ve been blissfully thinking about TM applications and their uses from a more ‘ideal’ point of view.  Large multinational companies with unlimited growth opportunities doing everything they can to hire, retain, and develop their talent.

Now that the Big R is staring me in the face, must I also rethink my product strategy?  Let’s take Talent Reviews for example.  I’ve spoken with many companies that are condueconomic-downturncting Talent Reviews to ensure they are properly engaging their talent.  And my partner in crime, Ken, fell in love while discovering the same.

Well, that’s all great, but in a down economy, do companies continue to conduct Talent Reviews?  And if so, is it with the same purpose in mind?  I believe the answers should be 1) “yes, they very much should” and 2) “yes, plus some”.

When resources are tight and opportunities are limited, it’s even more important to know that you are spending your human resoure $$ wisely.  And while I’m certainly not meaning to project this on anyone, Talent Reviews can enable organizations to focus on the right talent and also identify the talent that is not as necessary.  Now I know this is a touchy topic so please do not blast me, but it is a reality.  I’d much rather see organizations thoughtfully assess their talent and make the best decisions as I believe healthy companies lead to a healthy economy which then leads to healthy hiring.  Talent Reviews can help in this by allowing an organization to comparatively assess their employees, look at the talent in lagging business units, identify new opportunities for those with transferable skills, and yes, also identify those that are least able to contribute to the company’s bottom line in a tough economy.  (Hmmm, is this an argument for generalists?)

My conclusion is that Talent Management applications are very relevant in an up economy, and possibly even more relevant in a down economy.  They allow organizations to make thoughtful decisions vs. to react in a knee jerk fashion.  And as a generalist and a TM product strategist, that actually makes me feel pretty good.

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The View Keeps Me Coming Back

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on December 18, 2008

best-squirrel-shotI have a great view from my *home* office window of the walnut tree in my back yard. I watch squirrels chasing around and storing nuts. It’s a great visual lava lamp while I’m focusing on the conference call I’m on or working hard at getting a point across. But the best thing about this view is it keeps me coming back. Yes, I work with great people and I truly enjoy my job. But the fact that I have the flexibility to work from home most of the time with zero commute and only 5 minutes away from my 6 month old ranks way up there with things that keep me loyal to my company and my job.

I know how lucky I am, but it really surprises me when I hear someone say their company doesn’t allow telecommuting or allow for some flexibility. I think some organizations don’t understand how committed that employee is to the job because they know what a good thing they have and wouldn’t want to mess things up.

My team has some pretty fun ways of keeping connected when we’re not all sitting right next to each other. Of course there’s the phone, web conferencing and instant messaging. Those are the basic requirements of telecommuting. But what really gives a sense of team awareness are things like Twitter and Facebook and blogging. These really let me follow the mental processing of my coworkers. What are they thinking about when NOT in a meeting? What are they reading? What new ideas are inspiring them? And because they put those ideas, links and hooks into their posts, I can follow right along with them. Mental proximity can be much more intimate than physical proximity. And in many ways I feel much more connected to my peers now than when I sat in the next office over from them all day.

So, the next time someone asks if they can work remotely… make sure they’re Twittering.

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Wide Open Spaces

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on November 25, 2008

Colorado Trail

I feel like I’ve rushed a sorority and I now have to complete that one final embarrassing thing that gets me totally into the group.  TOTALLY!  So here comes my “9 things you might not know about Marcie” post.

  1. I’m a morning person.  Once when I was recovering from jet lag and back home in my flat in San Francisco, I secretly loved that I was waking up at 5 am and not able to get back to sleep.  I’d slip out the door and walk around the neighborhood, watching the shops slowly come to life and the bread get delivered at the local grocery store. 
  2. My least favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve and one of my favorites is New Year’s Day.  I think for a similar reason as #1.  It’s the start of something new and fresh.  All wrongs from yesteryear are forgotten and forgiven and there’s so much potential for the next year.  I get excited just thinking about it.
  3. “Dress Up” was my favorite game growing up.  High heeled shoes, bangles, make-up, fancy dresses and fake fur shawls.  I never liked playing with dolls much, but boy, give me a box of costume jewelery and I was in heaven.
  4. My first real kiss was at a church camp weekend.  So, yes, it’s a good idea parents to volunteer to chaperon.  And that’s all I’m saying.
  5. When I first moved to San Francisco at the age of 26, I forced myself to drink coffee and wine so I’d acquire a taste for them.  How silly is that?
  6. I went to more schools between Kindergarten and Senior year than there are grades.  Really!  We moved around a lot when I was growing up and thus many grades were split between 2 schools and sometimes even 3 once when we lived in Iran.  Yes, you read me right, Iran.
  7. I am a rule follower.  Though I really wish I had more rule breaking in my blood, so I like to have friends that push me out of my comfort zone so I get to experience life for a while on the other side.  Plus, it’s just more fun over there.
  8. I’ve completed several Olympic distance triathlons.  Great experiences which taught me how to swim, bike and yes, even run, but I do not consider myself a triathlete and don’t intend to do another one.
  9. I love to go 4-wheeling in the Colorado mountains on steep and rocky trails.  I was going to buy my own machine this year even, but I had a baby instead.  I even had my then 2 month old out on the trails though we rode behind and stayed on easy and safe terrain.  This picture is from a ride the previous year.

I wish you all good mornings, happy new years and wide open spaces on the trails ahead.

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Performance Calibration – Good or Bad?

Posted by Marcie Van Houten on November 22, 2008

bellcurveI’ll admit that I’ve been going along for awhile now believing that performance calibration is a good thing.  What could be bad about coming together as a management team, discussing your employees’ performance and using these conversations and comparisons to help calibrate the final performance ratings?  So I was surprised today when a co-worker referred to performance calibration as being dated and old-school and assumed, but was dismayed that companies were still dong it.  Enough so that I stopped the conversation to dig in deeper.

Well, it turns out her mental image of performance calibration was completely different than mine.  Whew, thank goodness.  But I think this difference warrants further investigation.  She associated performance calibrations with the exercise of having managers take their initial performance ratings they’ve assigned their employees and then forcing them into a bell curve assignment – or calibrating them to the curve.  This forced ranking would then likely be used to identify the bottom 10% and well, you know what happens next.  So this performance calibration to the bell curve had a very negative connotation to her, and, in my opinion, rightly so.

Performance calibration is more accurately seen today as an exercise by which an organization comes together to discuss employees’ performance ratings to ensure a consistent and fair assessment has been made based on past performance.  It’s an opportunity for managers to start the conversation about their employees with the next step to be to conduct talent calibrations where the future performance, or potential, of employees is discussed.  Talent calibration… now that’s a whole other post.

Performance calibration is good, but we should be aware that there is still some perception out there that it’s about ranking to a bell curve.  And while good, it’s not the whole story and we shouldn’t stop there.  There’s talent calibration and even talent reviews to conduct. 

But for now, good prevails over evil and all is again right in the world.  And as always, there’s the opportunity to do better.

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