The Talent Management Challenge Winners!

Last week I ran a contest sponsored by Lominger based on the book 100 Things You Need to Know: Best People Practices for Managers & HR.

I pulled 10 questions from the book and offered a free copy for two winners. I received 34 submissions from around the world. Only ONE person got all 10 right….. and the winner is:

Cindy Blackwell! Congratulations Cindy, you know your people practices.

The next closest were Amy Wilson and Marty Jordan, each with 8 right answers. I used to select: Amy Wilson.

It was easy to “grade” the answers as they came in… most people didn’t just get a few wrong, they got most of the questions wrong. Lominger uses a 1-5 “degree of certainty” scale for each answer, based on the amount of research to support the answer. I only used questions with the highest degree of certainty, so there were no “maybe” answers here.

Look, I’m not trying to put my readers down here. Most of my readers are HR pros, consultants, executive coaches, and savvy managers. As I read the book, I was guessing right less than 50% of the time myself. I ran my own contest with my team – all seasoned talent management practitioners – and the best score was a 6. I had lunch with a colleague last week – a university organizational development professor and experienced practitioner – and he was pretty surprised by the answers too.

Does this tell us anything about how we manage people? Are many of our sacred “truths” just plain wrong?

I read an interesting story by Sharon Begley in Newsweek in which she aks why psychologists seem to reject science. She writes:

For years, psychologists who conduct research have lamented what they see as an antiscience bias among clinicians, who treat patients. But now the gloves have come off. In a two-years-in-the-making analysis to be published in November in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, psychologists led by Timothy B. Baker of the University of Wisconsin charge that many clinicians fail to “use the interventions for which there is the strongest evidence of efficacy” and “give more weight to their personal experiences than to science.” As a result, patients have no assurance that their “treatment will be informed by science.” Walter Mischel of Columbia University, who wrote an accompanying editorial, is even more scathing. “The disconnect between what clinicians do and what science has discovered is an unconscionable embarrassment,” he told me, and there is a “widening gulf between clinical practice and science.”

Wow. Could we be guilty of the same level of managerial malpractice when it comes to how we teach managers how to manage people? Are we ignoring the science of talent management and over-relying on our experience? Given how proud I am that my blogging is based on “practical experience”, I’d be one of the first targets of this accusation.

Anyway, not to be too much of a buzz-kill, the contest was just meant to be fun and stimulate some good discussion. The correct answers are below, along with implications.

The Talent Management Challenge Answers:

1. Who is the least accurate judge of a manager’s job performance?
D. Self.
Relying on self-ratings for job improvement and career development would not be a sound practice. Almost anyone else’s rating would be more accurate.

2. What is the relationship between being smart (having a high IQ) and the ability to manage others effectively?
C. There is a small relationship; it helps but not much.
Most people overvalue smarts as a predictor of managerial success. While it’s not unimportant, it isn’t worth the weight that most give it.

3. How accurate are the ratings on formal performance appraisal evaluations?
A. People get higher ratings than they really deserve; ratings are generally inflated.
Most studies show that 85 to 95 percent are rated at or above average in formal performance appraisal processes. So we need to discount the value of these ratings.

4. What is the effect on others of a person asking for and seeking negative feedback?
C. Others think more positively of the person.
The people who look for more feedback, especially negative feedback, are usually more self-aware, self-assured, and perform better because they have more insight into their development needs.

5. How skilled are managers, in general, at being good coaches and helping others develop their long-term careers?
E. Managers, in general, are very poor at coaching and developing their people.
Relying exclusively on line managers to coach and develop their people for the long-term is a losing strategy.

6. What is the most likely outcome of people focusing exclusively on developing their strengths and doing only those jobs that match their strengths?
D. Strengths are likely to be overdone or not balanced, and unaddressed weaknesses would become blind spots.
I’ve posted on this topic here and here. At least I got one answer right. (-:

7. How do high performers rate themselves compared to low performers?
D. Rate themselves lower than others do and lower than low performers.
Self-ratings are suspect in a number of ways. Lower performers overrate and higher performers underrate.

8. What percentage of high potentials succeed after they are promoted?
C. About 50% continue to be successful.
If the call on potential is correct to begin with, the success rate would be higher.

9. What most often gets managers and executives terminated?
C. Poor self-knowledge and relationships.
We need to make sure high potentials get feedback, coaching, and mentoring early in their careers.

10. What’s the most effective long-term talent acquisition path to follow?
B. To the extent possible, it’s better to build your own talent and go outside.
In general, about an 80/20 mix (internal to external) is a good strategy.

So what do you think? Please comment on your opinion about the contest results, and/or any of the answers and implications.