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Feb 19, 2015

The movie Whiplash — the story of a young talented drummer and his demanding and ruthless teacher — is garnering a lot of attention (it’s been nominated for five Oscars) and it’s also kickstarting a lot of discussion.

What is the role of a teacher or coach? To what lengths should we go to elicit the best from someone? How do we motivate and not break people on the way to helping them reach their pinnacle?

These questions are relevant on school campuses, playing fields and the workplace. While I believe that everyone needs to get voted on the team and bring their A-game every day, I don’t believe the antiquated type of coaching works.

The world needs more talent than we have. Yes, we have a talent crisis.

No more command-and-control

In order to solve it, companies need to figure out how we can help people develop their skills to become appropriate candidates. Simultaneously, companies must evolve our management practices so they can appeal to modern talent.

Being the boss has always been a hard job. But now, it’s is harder than ever because it’s not about you, it’s about everyone else.

The era of command-and-control is passé. Arrogant Mad Men-style managers (big title, big office, big ego) who expect to be treated with deference and who manage via power and fear, makes today’s employees cringe. Bullies aren’t tolerated at school, or in the NFL, or in music conservatories. (J.K. Simmons was nominated for best supporting actor, but his character, the abusive conductor Terrence Fletcher, was fired.) And, bullies are not accepted in the board room anymore, either.

Today, it’s about teamwork; people work with us, not for us. It is management’s No. 1 job to make everyone successful. Management must embrace servant leadership.

6 rules for managing today’s talent

Here I have spelled out six (6) rules for modern management you should keep in mind:

  1. Be the employer of choice every day. Your best people are the ones who provide a disproportionate share of value to your company, and are also the ones most likely to be most sought after by competitors. What are you doing to be the best place for that top talent? Top talent wants to keep learning and being challenged, so you must do everything to help these people remain engaged, help them achieve their career goals.
  2. It’s about inspiration and motivation. Motivating individuals and teams to do their best is essential in today’s world. Get teams to continually reach new heights and raise their own expectations of what is possible. When properly encouraged, we find there is more in all of us to give.
  3. Demand a meritocracy. If it’s all about talent, then you need to assemble the best team. If someone is dragging the team down and not doing their jobs, work with them (quickly) to get it fixed, and if not, address the performance issue fast, and make a change, but do so humanely.
  4. Include people in the dialogue. Let employees collaborate with their peers and give them access to executives. Let them have a voice and embrace new ideas and input. They want to be included in the conversation and feel as if they are a part of something.
  5. Provide mentoring and coaching for employees. Understand your employees’ goals and work to help them achieve them. Provide career development and mentoring outside of the performance review process. Consider allowing the employee to get confidential external mentoring. I believe so strongly in the power of mentoring, but also know how hard it is to find mentors. This is actually why I co-founded Everwise, which uses data, software and people to help match mentors and protégés. In the future, mentoring relationships will not develop in the office; they will come from a network culled from a variety of areas.
  6. Understand it’s about opting in. Don’t be afraid of losing people; do things to win them over every day. The old model was built on a belief of scarcity — there are not enough talented people, so managers must hide their top talent so it doesn’t get poached. That’s not the case anymore! There are no jobs for life and you don’t own anyone so they can’t be stolen from you! And anyone with a LinkedIn account or Internet connection can identify and contact the hottest talent. The best way to have someone stay with your company is to make it appealing enough for them to want to stay.
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