John Mattone: Can do, will do, must do

Great firms create a belief that their leaders have the skills, the passion and the values to execute


John Mattone.
John Mattone.

For its fourth annual conference in the National Capital Territory on 24-25 September, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has picked a theme few will have heard of: velocity-accelerating human resources (HR). In an email interview, John Mattone, a US-based executive coach, an author and one of the speakers at the SHRM conference, tells us what the term means, and its implications for talent managers in the 21st century. Edited excerpts:

What is velocity-accelerating HR?

Being a great HR leader today requires incredible discipline and focus. Disciplined people and companies think different and think big and are all about creating a compelling future combined with focus, speed and pace as no longer is success about the companies that we want to create…it’s about the companies that we must create given the pace of change in disruptive forces like technology, globalization and shifting markets.

In what way has leadership changed?

Today, the pace of change in business is dramatically faster than in previous times. Top executives in firms today report fiercer competitive business environments and more globalized patterns of operations than ever. Technological advances continue to significantly impact both communication infrastructures and the strategic business decisions that executives make in terms of trade, resources and competition.

To successfully meet these new business challenges and trends, leaders and future leaders must be savvy conceptual and strategic thinkers, possess deep integrity and intellectual openness, find innovative ways to create loyalty, lead increasingly diverse and independent teams over which they may not always have direct authority, and have the maturity to relinquish their own power in favour of creating and fostering collaborative approaches inside and outside the organization.

Your top tips for the leaders of tomorrow.

There are four things that we’re seeing in the research that we’re doing. There’s a need to strengthen something called critical thinking—the ability to focus on details, to teach people to recognize assumptions behind arguments, which is a skill. You have got to have the ability to evaluate arguments, draw relevant conclusions. When you ask senior executives what’s lacking in Gen Y’ers, it is that focus on details and substance. That’s No.1.

No.2, there’s no substitute for hard work. I’m not saying that all Gen Y’ers are looking for immediate rewards, although I see more of that in the Gen Y population than the Gen X population. You’ve got to work your tail off if you’re going to achieve what it is that you’re capable of achieving. There’s no short cut.

Third, I think you’ve got to be somewhat patient. It’s not all going to unfold according to your schedule. But I think if you commit every day to becoming the best that you can be and you commit to the reward of the journey, you associate success and rewards with the journey of learning and growing. This allows you to become the best that you can be, without getting overly caught up in a promotion or title.

The fourth thing is, there’s a difference between fearlessness and courage. We’ve got to cultivate courage in our younger people. And so, companies would be well advised to, in their leadership development programmes, create environments where the younger executives take appropriate relevant risks so they can fail and learn from those experiences.

What does this mean for the talent managers of today?

It is clear that organizations that excel operationally, excel initially with their human capital/succession management practices. They select and promote only those leaders and future leaders who demonstrate (as a result of performance and objective assessments) that they have the highest probability of being successful; they benchmark and essentially “certify” (as a result of assessments) that leaders and future leaders have the capability, commitment and alignment required to execute strategy; and they provide a rich, compelling, engaging and dynamic learning and performance support environment that motivates leaders and future leaders to become the best they can be.

Only about one-third of global organizations have strategic, sophisticated succession processes. I help companies create their succession management value proposition (SMVP). A strong SMVP foundation leads to: (1) capability—“can do”; (2) commitment—“will do”; and (3) alignment—“must do”. Great organizations excel in creating the belief that their leaders and future leaders have the “can do” (i.e., the skills, the talents, the behaviours) to execute; the “will do” (i.e., passion, motivation, drive) to execute; and “must do” (i.e., an overwhelming sense of connectedness to the culture, mission, strategy and values of the organization) to execute.

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