When you look at the talent inside your business, there are always a few stars and emerging leaders who really stand out. These are your so-called "A players." When your management team is debating who should lead a new initiative or win a potential client, those names are always at the top of the list.
But problems can emerge inside the organization in terms of who really "owns" those star players.
1. Talent Hoarding
Consider, for example, if your company starts a new business or division that creates an opportunity for someone inside the organization to step up and lead that new venture. But, when the names of those A players come up, their current bosses quickly send the message: Hands off! You might hear those executives say things like: "Bob is too valuable to my organization to let him go." Or "I'll never hit my numbers if you take Sally away from me."
In other words, there is a sense of "ownership" among these executives when it comes to those A players--as opposed to the notion that it's the company itself that owns that talent. Who can blame them? They know these top performers are key to their group performance.
I've seen this time and time again inside companies--and this "hoarding" of talent can completely derail the growth of a company in multiple ways.
2. Inhibiting Company Growth
When you artificially keep top performers in their current roles, you're limiting the potential benefits they can deliver to the company. That's why the attitude of "the company owns the talent, not the manager" is so critical to understand. Managers need to embrace the idea that they are "borrowing" and developing talent to help the organization as a whole grow over time by creating new generations of leaders. In a perfect world, you always want your best talent on your biggest problems and opportunities. You'll simply grow faster with this approach.
3. Loss of Top Talent
When executives hoard talent, they don't recognize how they might be limiting the career growth for those A players. If you keep them pinned down in their current role, they can't rise to take more senior positions. Top performers don't appreciate this, and if you slow them down, they'll simply leave the company for better opportunities. I've heard people say things like: "You might own this job, but I own my career." They can create their own promotion at any time by leaving. So, by limiting a performer, you can cost the company top talent.
4. Leaders as Talent Developers
Ideally, your executives and managers will all embrace the notion that a key part of their job is to both develop talent and then share it unselfishly with the rest of the organization.
I remember a company I worked with where the CFO was a prime example of this dynamic in action. Bart was just phenomenal at developing A players, which made his team a ripe target for other departments hunting for talent. But whenever these A players got offers to move inside the company, Bart was happy to let them chase those opportunities, because he trusted his ability to develop their successors. In fact, Bart loved seeing his protégés succeed throughout the organization, because he knew they were helping drive the company's growth forward. Over time, most of the key leadership in the company had started with Bart.
Encourage your leaders to be like Bart. Develop a reputation as someone who grows talent, and consider it a compliment when people keep asking for the people on your team to lead important projects. It's a critical skill to grow organizational talent.
5. Remember: The Company Owns the Talent
When it comes to your organization's talent, watch out for executives and managers who might be hoarding those A players in a misguided effort to maximize their local results, ignoring the company results. Because the more people restrain that talent, the more you increase the chances you could limit your company's growth and you risk losing that talent altogether. The key is to remember that the company owns the talent.