Do we have learned anything in the recent past years? by Javier Pérez Yela
The lack of value contribution
The Method and Tools for Managing Teams
They were conferences about leadership. Experts from beyond the seas, where empowerment was invented and all this stuff. There I was, with my “Guerrero” notebook with gridded sheets and my “Bic” pen ready to explain to me how to develop my skills to lead (not manage, LEAD) high performance teams (listen, HIGH PERFORMANCE, no teams to walk around the house).
The first speaker began to talk about schools of tuna. How those great masses of hundreds of individuals moved as one. How it seemed that the nerve impulse with the consequent order to move, was transmitted between them as if they were neurons. The first tuna made a movement, and the rest followed it in a perfectly synchronized choreography. Impressive underwater photos and videos of these amazing animals, moving by hundreds, dodging objects in perfect synchrony, following the currents. Wonderful. Then came a few transparencies with the skills of a good leader of high-performance teams. Of course, all of them related to what we had just seen: the tuna that guided the entire school. I do not remember very well, but surely you get an idea: the leader as a guide, communicate vision, adaptation, all to one, the importance of communication, etc., etc. The speaker came out to applause and those of us who were there were eager to return to our work and start leading tuna, I mean, high performance teams. Or throwing ourselves into the sea, I don’t remember very well.
The second speaker told a story of how a certain tribe of North American Indians, in one of those initiation rituals to leave childhood and become an adult, asked the future soldier to kill a bison with a spear. He himself alone. They started putting slides of herds of bison around the American plains. A real spectacle. They were scary. He explained how these herds are like a giant rock moving across the prairie. If you get close, they roll you up. Always on the move. In the end, the Indians ended up looking for one of the bison that were delayed because they were old, sick or injured and one of these was the one they killed. The rest of the tribe fed on sick bison steak for a good season. This must have been a very tiring thing, because the herds were in constant motion, following the Captain General of the Bison, the head of the herd. Where this one went, the rest went.
As sometimes happens in these stories, an Indian appeared smarter than his peers and in order not to run after the herd, he smeared himself with bison dung, got into the whole herd at night while they slept and stuck the spear to the Bison Captain General. As the bug did not move, the next day, the rest of the bison stayed there frolicking and the Indians could hunt them at will without running like crazy after them. Moral: Well, I don’t remember very well, but I think it was exactly the opposite of the tuna thing. Shared leadership so that you do not get pickled, delegation, transmission of knowledge, empowerment and such.
At this point in the morning, I was already a little confused, why deny it. And then a man of some 50 years old appeared and with the weathered face of people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Dressed in a fleece, explorer pants and hiking boots with more kilometers on top than Marco Polo. He began to tell us that he, to teach managers what it is to lead High Performance Teams, dressed them as Colonel Tapioca, put them on a plane and took them on an expedition to make peaks above 5,000 meters, which was where you learned what this was about.
At that moment I took my notebook, got up and went to breakfast, before some unscrupulous thought of putting me in a sensory deprivation cell for a week to connect with the leader inside me.
The HR function and its value contribution
That Human Resources Director no longer knew what else to propose to the Management Committee. He had implemented a textbook Competency Management model and on top of that he had worked it out by himself, without bothering anyone. In his office locked for weeks.
- Dictionary with 123 competences perfectly defined with their levels described in behavioral evidence.
- Its Performance Evaluation model based on these competencies, with an online evaluation tool that it obtained at a super reasonable price and that in addition, in the future would allow it to monitor the training itineraries of each position.
- The training plan, of course, based on the gaps identified between the target profile of each employee and the evaluation obtained.
- A super cool Professional Development Plan, in which he took into account all the potential professional developments that the 125 people who worked in the company could have.
- A selection procedure with all kinds of tests to measure the competencies of each position, online competency tests, personality questionnaires and even critical incident interview templates had been worked on so that directors and middle managers knew how to conduct an interview as God commands.
- He hired a training and development consultant who made him a totally customized project of Potential Development, designed for the people with the best competency evaluations, to, of course, retain talent.
- He set up a 180º evaluation project so that the Directors can have feedback on their competences from their collaborators and colleagues, with individual feedback sessions from the consultants (charming and super professional).
He had been working hard for two years, leaving the office last, being the only one who cared about bringing minimally worked power point presentations to the Management Committees, innovating and presenting proposals continuously.
A few days ago, he presented to the Commercial Director a super innovative project of training in commercial skills based on a new North American model that guarantees a spectacular increase in sales. Do you know what he answered? You won’t believe it. He stared at him with an air of superiority and blurted out: “But, you… have you ever gone out with any of the commercials to see what their work consists of?” Incredible. Had he asked them to help him define competencies? No, right? Well, that’s it. Let’s see if now it will turn out that the human resources are going to have to go out with the commercials to sell, stay with the administration in the closures or accompany the marketing when a new product is launched. Anyway. He told me that he would start moving, because in his company he does not see many possibilities for development.
A few years ago, I insisted on buying a tailored suit. Don’t ask me why. It got between my eyebrow and eyebrow. The fact is that I searched the internet and found a tailor shop where they offered this service at a price significantly cheaper than I had thought I would have to pay. One afternoon shortly after, I was able to leave the office earlier than usual and, something I never do, I decided to show up at the store without my wife for advice. Crazy.
When I arrived, a kind clerk attended me and explained that they would first give me to try a standard size and then, from there, take measurements and advise me. “A 54, isn’t it, gentleman?” The uncle had guessed my size at a glance. A professional. He took out a navy blue suit, I tried it on and when I left the fitting room I heard a string of compliments and compliments that made me redden. “But well, if it fits you perfect!”, “You have to see!, You have some mannequin measurements!, it fits you like a glove”, and another series of comments that made me doubt for a moment if I should not have dedicated myself professionally to the world of fashion. Then I remembered my image in my underwear reflected in the fitting room mirror a few minutes before and stopped thinking stupid things.
I do not want to entertain myself too much but what happened in the end is that I took that suit, which, curiously, was cheaper than those advertised as “tailored suits”, but probably more expensive than the one I could have bought in a “normal” fashion store. In addition, when I got home, my wife made me see that my sleeves were short, that I had to take the bottoms to the pants and reminded me that all my suits were blue and that what I needed was a marengo gray one. In brief, I was left without my tailored suit, the one I bought was more expensive than the one I would have bought in a usual fashion store, just as I always had to take it to have it fixed, because, it did not fit like a glove, nor was it the color I needed and, above all, It wasn’t tailor-made. Of course, my wife made me promise that I would not make decisions again on issues for which I was not qualified and that I would resort to her on future occasions.
Conclusion and closure
I promised myself that the next time someone used that story about “the symbol in the Chinese alphabet for the word “crisis” is the sum of the ideograms representing the concepts of “danger” and “opportunity” in some presentation, lecture or similar, I would get up and leave without further explanation.
A crisis is a nuisance (I was going to use another word, but then they throw me the anger). No opportunity, no milk. We have dangers and opportunities every day and at all hours. There are people who would pass a cow painted fluorescent green with a sign that put “I AM AN OPPORTUNITY” in gothic letters, and surely would not see it. In crisis and in non-crisis.
What is certain is that, in times of crisis you have to think a little more, sharpen your ingenuity, know what you can spend your money on, take resources from where you do not have them, value what is worthwhile and what is not. All these annoying years have helped me to realize how little useful are some of the things we sell from departments and human resources consultants. Of the lack of value contribution. Of the smoke and the false “to measure”. How easy it is to go towards the “soft”, because it is much more intangible and how complicated it is to contribute something “hard”.
In these complicated times, either we stop fooling around and present projects and ideas that really add value to our customers or we will become ornamental figures. And the day will be further away when it makes sense for a Human Resources Director to be able to promote to CEO.
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