Make Sure the Next Person You Promote Is an ‘Asset Builder’

“You’re like a dictator dolling out tasks.” — Bill Campbell to Jonathan Rosenberg.

“I was surprised when Jonathan Rosenberg, former senior executive at Google, said his coach, Bill Campbell, wasn’t focused on efficiency. He focused on relationship and community.” (From Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak).

Dictators disguised as managers

I am a big fan of the late Bill Campbell, known as the CEO coach and the subject of the bestseller, Trillion Dollar Coach.

When I read this, I thought of managers in my past; I would like for you to do the same. How many managers have you had that fit the description of dictator? Living like a general in their own mind; modelling the leader of the past as in I am “the Boss.” I have all the answers.

This so-called model is a RELIC. It may have worked at one time, but now it has not a chance of being successful. I travel the world and meet some of the brightest HR professionals on the planet. They are doing great work in their organizations. They understand the role of the new HR professionals. They are leading the charge.

However, I also hear of stories about the dictators in their midst. Dictators who in their mind are the epitome of the hard charging leader, but in really they are an empty suit. Everyone knows it but them.

“Be an asset builder”

Gallup in a ground breaking study found that 70% of the variance in engagement scores is determined by the dynamics of manager-employee. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Organizations should have a laser focus on the quality of the people they put in charge of their teams, etc. This is no small matter. If this is your “most important asset” you must put it in the hands of not only a great caretaker, but an “asset builder.” To make this happen, companies must demand that every team in their workforce have a great manager.

Teams are composed of individuals with differing needs related to morale, motivation and clarity — all of which lead to varying degrees of performance. Nothing less than great managers can maximize them.

Most promotions are wrong

The talent required to be a great manager is rare. Finding this needle in a haystack is a monumental challenge, which should change not only the selection process, but also your pipeline and its development. While technical skills are important, they are not the asset builder model so many believe. Sure, we need somewhat of a subject matter expert, but the overriding arc should be based on people skills. If great managers seem scarce, it’s because the talent required to be one is rare. If your L&D strategy is not aligned to building better leaders, you are missing the point.

Article Continues Below

Yes, the L&D strategy should sync to the organizational strategy and goals. In order to achieve those goals, the “asset builder” is going to need to create high performance teams able to surmount the obstacles that inevitably will pop up.

However as Gallup found in a study, these builders are rare – organizations chose the wrong candidate to promote to management a staggering 82% of the time. As Gallup reported, “Talents are innate and are the building blocks of great performance. Knowledge, experience, and skills develop our talents, but unless we possess the right innate talents for our job, no amount of training or experience will matter.”

Only 1-in-10

Gallup’s conclusion that only one in 10 people possess the inherent talent to manage means we must scour the talent pool and look for that game changer who is going to drive their team to a higher engagement level.

So my advice is, look for the asset builder; every organization has them and they may be overlooked as we mistakenly search for the hard charging, riding in on the white horse hero to save the day.

You could be looking a potential leader in the face each and every day who is disguised as a normal person with great people skills.

Be the “asset builder”…

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

Topics