Home > Leadership & People > We have met the enemy… and the enemy is us!?

We have met the enemy… and the enemy is us!?

People management and talent management are hot topics amongst HR professionals and senior executives given the highly competitive global economy companies operate in nowadays.  Naturally, the usual platitudes about “people, people, it’s the people” and company’s focus to win the talent war gets thrown around as much as a plastic toy in a baby’s hand.

So it was quite interesting to read If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow by Janet Rae-Dupree in the New York Times Unboxed column today. She cites a three decades long research conducted by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck aimed to find an answer to this key question: “Why do some people reach their creative potential in business while other equally talented peers don’t?”

Appears the answer according to Ms. Dweck:

[L]ies in how people think about intelligence and talent. Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.”

Nature vs. nuture?

The thought can be summed up by Howard Jones’ classic 80’s song, New Song:
Ive been waiting for so long
To come here now and sing this song
Dont be fooled by what you see
Dont be fooled by what you hear

This is a song to all my friends
They take the challenge to their hearts
Challenging preconceived ideas
Saying goodbye to long standing fears

Dont crack up
Bend your brain
See both sides
Throw off your mental chains

I dont wanna be hip and cool
I dont wanna play by the rules
Not under the thumb of the cynical few
Or laden down by the doom crew

While not touching upon the obvious question “Are leaders born or made?”, I think that there’s quite a bit of truth stemming from the article. Talent gets one so far, but talent, that’s undeveloped will simply fall flat. How many times, have we seen our fellow classmates in school, bright colleagues at work, just hit the wall and stop progressing? Alot IMHO is due to lack of discipline and hard work. There’s no free lunch – despite many who insist and persist in disproving such a quaint notion.

I think sometimes, corporations that have strong talent development programs may also be doing the talented executive a disservice because it may cause the talent to manage his or her career first and foremost. Yet, at later stages, it’s important to continue focusing on managing the job, the business, the project at hand and let the results sort out one’s career. Because as one gets higher up the executive ranks, failure to manage properly or lead the organization will result in a disproportionate negative impact below – often unseen and unheard by the executive.

So then, you may ask the million dollar question – what is the relevance for today’s manager? I think the following obvious points stand out:

  1. Devote a considerable amount of attention to encouraging employees to think differently, act differently, and focus on continuous learning or self-improvement.
  2. Discuss personal and career plans on a regular basis- that is more frequent than year end or mid-year.  Formally, likely quarterly and supplemented with  ad-hoc discussions.  It’s good coaching/mentoring habits and should be done regardless.
  3. Check one’s management and leadership style to see whether or not one’s behaviors are enforcing a conformist mentality.  The hidden danger is to avoid being seen as not walking the talk.  So next time, maybe bite the tongue, listen first, before shooting off the mouth and showing everyone how smart you are and why you’re the boss..
  1. August 13, 2008 at 9:53 AM

    Hi Lui, Thanks for your comment, I quite agree with you about not “feeding” ourselves rightly to realise the potential… As Ms Dweck rightly suggesting to recruit people with a passion for learning who thrive on challenge and change. Afterall one rule applies Life=Change=Risk and one should be thriving for it always 🙂

    Indeed your thoughts described in the blog are very interesting specially i enjoyed the song part. You have an interesting blogs too..

    Lets keep it up 🙂


  2. Lui Sieh
    August 14, 2008 at 1:42 AM

    Hi Kaustubh,

    Thanks for reading. I like your life rule, that is a good way to put it. We should be definitely prepared for life full of change and risk 🙂

    Glad you enjoy reading my blog!


  1. July 26, 2008 at 6:13 PM

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