The Blog


Building the required talent for an organization never ends. Employees come and go; are on-boarded, promoted, deselected or dismissed. Strategies evolve, necessitating different levels of competence. But what remains constant is this equation for determining the capability of an employee:

Capability = Cognitive capacity + Skills & Knowledge + Value the Work – Negative Temperament

Let’s look at one component that too many managers overlook: “valuing the work”. It means that employees have to be willing to get up every day and tackle the work with relish. If they do, they will bring commitment and passion to their job. This energy is infectious throughout the workplace: when employees love what they do, and are working at the correct level for their capability, the organization thrives.

If you don’t think that valuing the work is an important requirement in the talent building process, take a look at this example, in which a radiology technician became disengaged with her work and falsified test results. This lead, tragically, to the deaths of several women whose breast scans were ignored.

Often in my coaching practice, I hear from senior managers who are puzzled by the behaviour of their direct reports. “He used to be so passionate about his job,” they tell me. “But now his work is sub-par. He shows up late, misses deadlines, and under-delivers. I don’t know what’s changed.”

As a manager, it’s your job to speak to the employee and find out what the issue is. Yes, it might be an uncomfortable conversation. But it’s your job to manage! And if you find that your employee is in over his head, or bored by the work, that’s a situation you need to resolve.

Talent building is not just about hiring the right employee for the job, and then leaving them to fend for themselves. It’s an reiterative process in which employees are selected, on-boarded and coached to success. And managers are accountable for this.

Nick Forrest

It’s finally spring in Toronto, and with it comes the all-too-familiar disappointment of the Toronto Maple Leafs not making the finals. It’s been almost 50 years – 1967 was the last time! – Since our city’s hockey team won the Stanley Cup. During the last half-century, innumerable players, coaches, managers and owners have come and gone.

And yet… and yet… the Toronto Maple Leafs are recognized as the most valuable franchise in the NHL, reputedly worth well over $1 billion dollars. Their popularity amongst their long-suffering fans is at an all-time high. Tickets for home games are almost impossible to secure; every game is sold out and there is a lengthy waiting list for season tickets despite the exceptionally high prices. Current and past jerseys and assorted logoed merchandise – everything from Carlton the Bear mascots to watches to pet gear, fly off the shelves. The team’s Twitter account has over half-a-million followers.

How to explain the Toronto Maple Leafs’ success? Well, first of all, we should remember that the franchise is owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, who also own other sports franchises such as the Toronto Raptors, and various facilities, including the Air Canada Centre and BMO Field. MLSE’s bills itself as “Canada’s preeminent leader in delivering top quality sport and entertainment experiences” to its fans. A private organization, it delivers on its mission. And for MLSE’s owners (a large portion of MLSE is controlled by public companies Bell and Rogers Communications), the investment has been spectacular: In 2013, American financial magazine Forbes estimated that MLSE is worth at least $2.25 billion dollars, and a Canadian labour news agency reported recently that MLSE’s profits are “in the range of $100 million CAD per year”.

So the Toronto Maple Leafs can continue to lose, and still make money. The franchise can continue to pay its players anywhere from a low of half-a-million dollars per year to eight-million plus, and still make money. It doesn’t matter: the players are happy (with no monetary incentivisation to win, why shouldn’t they be?), the fans are happy, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ detractors still have a hockey team they love to hate.

I often talk to my clients about the importance of determining the core function of their company. What’s a core function? It’s what drives the revenue, the function around which all other functions revolve. In some organizations, it’s manufacturing. In others, it might be retail store operations.

Not having insight into MLSE’s inner workings, I don’t know what its core function is. But what I find fascinating is that MLSE, despite having a mediocre hockey team, still makes money, and lots of it. So its core function may be franchising sales or merchandising. It certainly isn’t about winning the Stanley Cup.

Nick Forrest

The Telegraph recently posted an article in which John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, is quoted as saying, “There was a common feeling within the industry that audiences had become too cynical. I definitely disagreed with that, to the bottom of my soul.”

To me, this quote exemplifies the mental crucible in which great leadership is fashioned. Harnessed to the soul it emerges with clear intent and backed by a relentless drive to action. Just look at what Lasseter achieved when faced with the challenge of reenergizing the Disney creative formula.

What a great lesson for all leaders in business! Leaders must believe, to the bottom of their souls, that the work of their corporations “will make the world a better place”. This is essential, as many of their customers are weary – distrustful of companies as too many corporate promises have been made, only to be broken.

In your present assignment, how clear are you that your strategy will make the world/your country/your community a better place?  If you have any doubts, you need to ask yourself some tough questions. Otherwise, it’s likely that you are leading something in which you don’t truly believe. What is the cost of this detachment, to your company and to its customers?

Do not let the speed of life, the lack of time for reflection, the “tyranny of do” undermine your understanding of the purpose and context for the work your company does. Each of us is possessed with a little bit of magic. Our very uniqueness can, in turn, make a unique contribution in our lives.

Senior executives have an opportunity to influence and positively affect many lives. So make sure you seize the day with all your soul. That is how truly successful leaders engage their world and make a great positive difference.

Nick Forrest