Talent development is key to a company’s performance and profitability. Proper training and augmenting competences not only helps with things like customer service and innovation, they are critical to an effective succession planning strategy and the internal mobility within your organization. All of these are indicative of health and vitality and must be alive and well if you expect your organization to be agile, adaptable and progressive.

As leaders, we find something that works and we beat that thing to death. We suck every last bit of juice out of it and apply it in every area conceivable to maximize the use of something that works. We become so focused on it that we study, go to seminars/conferences, attend train-the-trainer sessions and anything else we feel will give us an advantage. Again, nothing intrinsically nefarious about these things.

talent_discoveryThe blind-side blow we experience from all this is that we unknowingly and unwittingly – perhaps unwillingly – become professionally groomed to take the ideas of focus and diligence and morph them into unilateral vision. We lose the big picture. We believe and have a vicious conviction that the solution is finally in our hands.

So, every problem we see must fit our solution.

This is where most leaders lose the plot. There is an organization-centric approach to everything. The organization comes up with the training materials. The organization has to have the answers to organizational problems, especially when it relates to the talent within the organization. The organization has to see problems before they exist and prepare the talent to manage and confront those problems as early as possible. Quite exhausting really because the organization has to fulfill its marketplace function and sell or manufacture whatever their product(s) may be.

There is one other area in which leaders need to cast their gaze. Not in the blindingly single-mindedness with which development has been approached, but with a sense of balance of what is needed and how things work – organically. It is the skill and art of discovery.

Having a sole focus of development nurtures an underlying assumption. People need to be developed, and we have the answers their development opportunities need. Yeah, it sounds a bit arrogant and self-absorbed to me too. We become the competence babysitters of people. This may not be our intention, but that is the ultimate result whether it is our motives or not.

When we temper our development efforts with a desire to discover, we learn about what already exists in our organization. Since when was any form of development relegated only to HR?

If you looked for it, I bet you could discover some amazing things about the people in your organization. You would discover individuals who have uncanny insight into foreseeing problems in their particular area. They may even have some solutions that will benefit others. Heck, you may want to be a complete rebel and allow peers to train peers. Sheer genius!! Yes, unbridled sarcasm.

HR doesn’t need to – nor shouldn’t – shoulder 100% of the development needs of the organization. People need to take responsibility for their own development and leaders should support that. Learning how to balance and temper development with discovery is an important step to collaboratively sharing the weight of improving the organization as a collective group of individuals. Human-centric is what really works.

Individuals need to be responsible for their own engagement, their own development and the maintenance of the culture in which they work. Leadership needs to support, encourage and facilitate that. Leadership creates a context in which things happen and that context facilitates things. One of those things is the balance of discovery and development.

What are your thoughts on this issue?