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Powerful leadership learning and current thinking on coaching

Welcome to our book reviews

Take a look at the books that have stood the test of time in leadership and coaching.  

You'll find reviews and author interview clips below.

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Bob Hughes, Forton Group CEO & Creator of the Leadership Book Club

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The Talent Wave by David Cluttterbuck

Another really useful book from David Clutterbuck. David is well-known for his many contributions to the field of leadership, coaching and mentoring.

What he does in this book is to apply those ideas, along with new ones, to the world of talent management and succession planning.

Even with the global economic challenges, many organisations recognise the need to hang onto the talent they have.And the need to nurture new talent. In fact, if people susn the job market picks up, they’ll remember and they’ll move. So this is a really important topic.pect your organisation is in trouble, then even when times are tough, the best talent will be looking to move on. And if you don’t nurture the talent you already have, whe

There are many challenges to getting this right. But it’s clearly worth the effort. Bringing in people from outside is rarely as successful as developing your own people. This is as true at the top as it is all the way down; although we often hear about the all-action hero CEO being parachuted in to save the company, in fact internally grown CEOs are usually more successful.

But how do you select the right people for the talent pool? How do you recruit the right people? Once they are in place, how do you develop them in the most effective way for them on to your organisation? And how do you know, once you’ve put all this investment in that they even stay in your organisation?

When we do talk about this topic, it’s easy to forget that we have people in our organisations who are building their own careers – it’s not just about insurance for the organisation. So, it’s good that the book spends time looking at the employee side of the equation, looking at what successful career planning looks like. One of the tips I give to any of my clients is to make sure you have a great network in place – starting from the day you join. Or sooner! There’s a whole chunk of ideas about this topic to mull over

David’s book challenges many of the traditional approaches, showing why they have failed us, and proposes some interesting alternatives.

Part of his approach is to look at developing leaders to be better at spotting and nurturing the talent in their teams. This fits in well with our definition of leadership; for us, leadership is about being personally successful, whilst enabling success in others.

This approach also aligns with one of the four pillars of employee engagement; a leader who is more coach like with their people. A leader prepared to have fulfilling and constructive conversations with their people. What that leads to is alignment between the needs of the individual and the organisation

There are several chapters devoted to conversations – the inner conversation, that between employees and stakeholders, between the wider organisation and employees and finally between social networks. There’s a great quote which sums up the importance of this:-

“In a very real sense, a business is the sum of a thousand everyday conversations.”

(Winter and Jackson, 2009)

David talks about the changing definition of succession planning - for example –

·         the need to develop staff more quickly

·         the need to have a wider pool rather than individual successes,

·         the move from a closed to an open process.

I especially enjoyed the piece where he explores how subjective we really are, even when trying to be as objective as possible; the danger of succession planning turning into selective inbreeding. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the continued prevalence of white males at the top of organisations.

I also liked the observation that talent management is a continuous process.  Too often we see assessment centres being the sole intervention. More informed organisations will have training programs.  The real success comes from ownership from the line, and development being an activity that individuals and their managers embrace.

There’s some great research behind this book and many really useful references to other pieces of work in the field.

There’s also a lot of scary statistics; much time and effort has been invested over many years in talent management with very little evidence of great returns on this. And even when we have got measures in place, it seems that many of these are the wrong measures.

It’s helpful that the book has a range of definitions in it. This has to be the start point for getting the measures right. For example we talk about building leadership capability in organisations; but do we really know what we mean by leadership? Do we really understand the different kinds of leadership that are appropriate at different times in the organisation?

Certainly, the changing world of work and the new generations of people joining the workforce, require a new style of leadership. David talks about the concept of a connected leader and his ideas here resonate very strongly with our own beliefs about leadership.

We also need to understand what we mean by talent. The language the organisation uses and the way they communicate to the people can have a huge impact on the success of that organisation. This is as true for talent management; how can we label people who are not in the talent pool in a way that leaves them feeling valued, without devaluing the whole process?

There’s also the risk of inflating the egos of the talented, with the consequent impact on their fellow team members and colleagues.

I am not convinced by all the arguments David makes – the value of a psychologist in interviews is one I would question – but he has always been controversial in his approach and life would be a dull place if we agreed on everything.

I’d also disagree about David’s use of the terms mentor and coach, although I do like the distinction he draws between a sponsorship based and a developmental mentor approach.       

The book is wrapped up neatly by four themes for success –

·         have courage

·         harness the talent wave

·         ensure systems enable rather than control

·         make sure the 4 types of conversation happen

Overall, another great book, useful to talent management specialists, leaders and indeed anyone keen to advance their careers. It’s got some great academic analyses alongside pragmatic tips and ideas.

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