Passionate, Enthusiastic and Engaged

26th January 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve been in a couple of conversations about internet dating recently and it got me thinking about developing people in organisations.

kissThe internet dating conversations were with women who were pretty unhappy at how it was working for them and that made me curious to find out more. I read that searching for relationships on-line is a growth area and I can see that finding your life partner through an algorithm isn’t such an unattractive idea. Getting a meaningful relationship off-line carries the risk of hard work and messy public failure. Mingling with a community gets you to meet others but some people aren’t as happy as I am in the pubs, clubs and bars where these things tend to start. Not everyone is comfortable talking to strangers. By comparison, a glass of wine on the sofa with The Voice, a few photos and some clever maths to make a recommendation can sound attractive.

I’m sure there are successes but this links to people development in the failures that my friends are experiencing. What the dating algorithm is doing is automating a competency profile. It’s taking a list of attributes and scoring them to find a match. And we all know this doesn’t work all the time, in fact I’m not even convinced it works most of the time. Like the woman who designed David Beckham and fell in love with Benedict Cumberbatch, the successful senior managers in an organisation are rarely paragons of the virtues of the competencies they seek in their successors. Because any objective analysis of the ideal date or the ideal leader is bound to be flawed. By perfectionism. By hope. By the intrinsic lack of reality that comes from trying to be objective about things that should properly be at least a little bit subjective.  And mostly by the failure to acknowledge that it’s the intangible and the unexpected that makes any relationship interesting.

Most succession plans aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. HR’s response is often to create increasingly cumbersome, unwieldy and incomprehensible process and competency maps which just fail more expensively. I think the answer is in the opposite direction: take the process out and find a way to make good judgements about people more common. I’ve yet to find someone looking for a new house that hasn’t compromised on one of their criteria in favour of the place they feel they can call home. Choosing people is the same. Whatever your HRIS vendor may tell you, finding your future leaders won’t come through the software but through the sustained performance of people, their appetite for learning and a common feeling that they ‘fit’. Trying to take the feeling out of the equation is not only doomed to failure, it’s also just plain wrong.

Where I work we talk about looking for passion, enthusiasm and engagement in people. To my eye, none of these lend themselves to measurement and all of them are best assessed through conversation between people with a common view of ‘what good looks like’ and the culture they’re working in or trying to create. I don’t claim perfection but I’m clear in saying I don’t want to be any more analytical than that at one level. Because to seek a universal measure refuses to acknowledge the infinite variety of human personality and our capacity to be wonderfully, mystifyingly, brilliantly, frustratingly, utterly unpredictable.

I don’t plan on getting involved in on-line dating and I’ll stick to more messy ways of finding the people that make me happy. Come to think of it, passion, enthusiasm and engagement might just be the places to start there as well.

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