How culture improves team management

In Europe, there’s a lot of valuable focus on “talent management”. Yesterday I asked a client for his definition of talent management, and he said “hiring and developing the best people”. He also told me that one of the big strategy consultancies had been making presentations in his organisation that talent management was the key, and with this, culture would take care of itself.

I fundamentally disagree with this statement. The guy I was meeting with has many years of designing culture change initiatives and he described it as, “like a football team hiring the best players but not winning the championship”.

The culture of the team either brings the best out of the players, or the worst.

  • In some teams, the cultural values demand that every player put the outcome of the game ahead of their own desire to star. In other teams this does not occur.
  • In some teams, it’s the norm to blame each other when things go wrong. In others, everyone considers their own contribution and responsibility.
  • In some teams, more experienced players mentor the newcomers. In others they do not.
  • In some teams, everyone turns up for practice, every time, on time. In others they do not.

These are not factors of the skill of the individual talent, although t is possible, and useful, to hire for and develop these behavioral characteristics, They are factors of the culture that has been created in the team, and the club. It is not the automatic result of good hiring and talent development. In fact many times I witness talented new hires being pulled down by the culture in which they operate. Culture is a force in its own right, and to build the environment in which this well developed talent thrives, it is crucial to manage and develop the culture through deliberate interventions.

To win you need great talent. You need a culture where good talent management is valued. And you need a culture which lifts everyone to be the very best they can be, technically and behaviorally.

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