Talent! Not Resources.

I am amazed that most organizations use the term resources to describe their technology staff.  Their staff may even use resources to refer to themselves.  If your organization is suffering from low energy level this may be part of the problem.

Resources…  hmm…  Stuff that I can buy or rent to get things done.  Resources do specific things.  Resources don’t need benefits.  Resources don’t have a life outside of work.  Resources don’t need pep talks when things aren’t going well.  And you don’t feel awful when you have to let the resources go.

But resources are not very adaptable.  Resources aren’t creative.  Resources don’t get behind a vision of the future.  Resources don’t put in super human effort when things are not going well.  Resources can’t continuously improve your business through innovation.  And resources can’t grow into leadership positions.

How would you do things differently if you managed talent instead of resources?  Start by calling them talent.  Then treat them like they are really part of your team – trusted colleagues.   Provide information on how things are really going, what’s coming up.  Don’t keep them in the dark.  Even if things are not going well.  Let them know what is important to you and to your organization.

Get to know team members.  Their hopes and dreams.  Personal challenges they face.  What they really get excited about.

Give them room to figure things out for themselves.  Even though you know how to do every job in your organization, give them some room to be creative.  They will undoubtedly surprise you at some point.  Focus on objectives, not the details.  Talent will learn faster by figuring it out rather than following orders.  And then they will be more valuable to the organization.  But don’t let them fail big.  If you have been there before, don’t confront them head on.  Guide them to a reasonable path.  Small failures will help their learning.  But big failures can be devastating.

Help them grow personally.  Each team member will have different ambitions.   Their ambition may be to grow along a technical path.  Or perhaps into management.  Or even a pivot into a totally different role.  Sometimes this may also mean they will need to leave the organization to follow their dreams.  Make a deal with them – you will help them get there if they find and train their replacement.

Give them a variety of experiences – technologies, projects, processes, and team interactions.  Having 10 years of the same 1 year of experience is not very valuable to an organization.

Keep teams together so they can develop personal relationships.  Let teams hire their new team members.  They will be able to figure out who can help get a difficult release out the door, who will watch their back in a crisis.

Recognize teams and team members when they go above and beyond.  Or when they build something incredibly cool and useful.   Salary compensation is just a maintenance factor for many IT professionals.

Start calling them talent.  Give them objectives and guidelines.  What things they can change, and what things need to be leveraged.  Paint a vision of the future that they can get behind.   Check in with them regularly.  Course correct when you need to.  But let them run with it.

You are leading talent, not resources.  Emotions matter.  Motivation matters.  It’s up to you to lead your teams to win.