Nowadays no one disputes the idea that managing always involves managing people - and that a substantial part of the challenges faced by managers is related to the difficulties of managing different personalities, ways of being, visions and values, managing to maximise and leverage the available talent. But managing talent is not an easy task.

There are numerous strategies that have been discussed and tested, such as providing coaching , giving employees development opportunities, clarifying roles and expectations, among many others (if you want to go deeper into these strategies, I recommend reading the book The Talent Management Handbook, edited by Lance and Dorothy Berger, and whose third edition will be available in December this year). However, it is easy to fall into traps when trying to translate these strategies into practical actions.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor and consultant, highlights, in an article published in 2014 in the Harvard Business Review, five commonly encountered pitfalls in talent management. Of these I would like to highlight two that are particularly relevant and yet little discussed.

1. Deciding on the basis of favouritism, taking the lead for the work of others and creating internal divisions

Firstly, ignoring the harmful effects of company "politicking", which involvesactions not sanctioned by the organisation (and therefore illegitimate) and which are highly person-centred (deciding on the basis of favouritism, taking over the work of others, creating internal divisions). The perception that these are the rules that guide the functioning of an organisation has a toxic effect that tends to undermine any attempts to create a good working environment and reduce both organisational effectiveness and efficiency, translating into a growing cynicism towards any initiatives that may be promoted.

2. Confusing commitment with happiness at work

The second trap is to confuse commitment with happiness. Happiness is certainly important and we should all make choices that make us happy and seek to be happy with the choices we make. But from a talent management perspective, this is a potentially misleading goal, as a person may be happy at work because the job is undemanding, because they have friends in the workplace to talk to, or because they can navigate the waters of organisational "politicking" - goals that may not contribute to the best functioning of the organisation.

Commitment, on the other hand, reflects the emotional bond that people develop with their work and which is reflected in an increased willingness to help the organisation meet its goals. Being committed means that one is willing to face difficulties and riskier tasks (which does not necessarily contribute to happiness, at least in the short term) because one is "wearing the shirt" of the organisation.

In short and in conclusion

Good talent management is also about being able to identify and act on these and other pitfalls, signalling to employees that talent management is taken seriously and is indeed a key objective for your organisation.

Article originally published in Forbes Portugalmagazine

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