A “seminal moment” for a “talent master”

The Talent Masters is one of the most valuable business books I have read in recent years. Co-authored by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan, and published by Crown Business (2010), it offers a wealth of information, insights, and counsel to explain “why smart leaders put people before numbers.”

For example, while CFO for more than eight years at Agilent before chief financial and administration officer at Skype, Adrian Dillon made major contributions to the company;’s transformation, especially in terms of its talent management.

As he recalls, as he was about to conduct a review meeting, his boss wandered in to observe. Dillon thought the meeting went very well and was especially pleased by his own performance. “I was quite impressed with myself.”

Adrian Dillon Photo: Skype

His boss’s opinion? “You know, Dillon, you are in real trouble. That was a great meeting, but your problem is that you still think your job is to be the smartest guy in the room. It’s not. Not anymore…what you’ve got to do is [to] make everybody in the room think that they’re the smartest guy in the room. You’ve got to teach them what you know and what you do, not tell them…And to learn from you in a way that when you’re not here and you’ve moved on to your next job, they can carry on.”

Dillon says he still gets shivers down his spine thinking about those comments. “It was like a whole new world opens up before your eyes.”

He concludes, “This was one of those seminal moments in one’s career where you make the fundamental decision: are you going to be an individual contributor and continue to do individual genius stuff and be the smartest guy in the room, or are yiou going to leverage your capabilities through otherrd, increasing the impact of what I can bring to the table, but also freeing myself up for what I can do next? And it was on that day my management style style changed.”

Adrian Dillon is among the lucky ones who experience a “seminal moment” such as this, thanks to a supervisor who understands how important it is to manage talent effectively with a combination of emotional intelligence (i.e. empathy) and street smarts.

Robert Morris


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