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May 24, 2016

Chazz Palminteri wrote the wonderful screenplay, a favorite of mine, A Bronx Tale. The film is set in the 1960s and chronicles several life events of a young boy, Cologero, who is faced with the choice of listening to the advice his bus driver father, Lorenzo, or following in the footsteps of the neighborhood gangster, Sonny. Throughout the story Cologero learns many lessons from both. One in particular happens during a conversation on the bus with his father. During which Cologero is told, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”

No doubt you have found yourself participating in a conversation about talent. How and when do we bring in the right talent? What methods should our company use to engage and retain key people? You have probably been involved in designing a program to do one or all of these things. Great leaders often find ways to keep the top performers through mentoring relationships, high-potential programs, succession planning and stretch assignments. These are all excellent ways to ensure your talented team members are engaged and have the opportunity to contribute to the success of your business.

What happens when we fail to follow through on the best laid plans? Your top performers leave. As much as they love you, the company, their team, if they are not able to find effective ways to use their skills, experiences and abilities – they will leave you.

Case in point.

A friend of mine, someone for whom I have deep respect and have learned a lot from over the years, is initiating a job search. Not a big deal on the surface. However, when you consider this guy is fiercely loyal to his employer, is an ambassador to the core and believes in the work he does and what the organization does. He’s been there several years, speaks very highly of the experiences he’s had, the partnerships built and the success achieved.

The organization does solid business. There are established succession plans, talent development and career progression programs contributing to their reputation as an employer of choice. My colleague is a great example of how these programs can work when implemented effectively. He’s been identified as high potential and ready to promote. Great performance reviews and stellar skip level meetings with his boss’ boss.

All talk, no action

So why, if everything is awesome, is he considering a move? Pure and simple – boredom. Challenge has left the building. And, as it turns out, the career discussions and talks about expanding his role or being promoted have been going on for two years. What??

There are some serious flaws in the execution of this company’s development programs! His talents are being wasted. How many other high performers are being limited in their ability to grow and contribute?

We all have choices in life. As leaders within in our organizations we not only have choices for ourselves, but we can impact the choices our teammates and employees make. Will the high-potential employees choose to stay in the neighborhood and do what they’ve always done because it’s easy? Or will they get on the bus and explore the outside world?  You decide.

Don’t let your place of business be the one where talent goes to waste away.