Stop The Vanilla Blog

Accept the Responsibility to Shepherd Your Talent

Shepherd Your Talent

After 15 years in the strategy and talent management arena I am amazed by how much I continue to learn. I recently had a breakthrough regarding how we should look at talent during a conversation with one of my clients.   He was venting regarding some of the people challenges he was facing and it hit me. We need to “Shepherd” the talent in our companies, departments, families and in ourselves.

I went to the Webster’s Dictionary, and the definition of a shepherd, aside from herding, tending and guarding sheep, was “a person who protects, guides or watches over a person or group of people.” Isn’t that pretty much what we should do every day as we run a business or department? As a leader of a company, you have the responsibility to shepherd the talent of your employees. But I would also extend the shepherd concept to all areas of our lives: beyond our company or department at work. You also have a responsibility to be a shepherd of your family, and ultimately, of yourself.

It has been exciting to see the “light bulb turn on” for business leaders with whom I have shared the concept of shepherding the talent in their organization. There are several things you need to consider as you assume your responsibility of shepherding your talent.

First of all, you need a person who will be accountable for shepherding the talent. In some cases, it might be the company leader or it might be the head of the Human Resources Department or Organizational Development. Whoever it is, the person must have the skill set and training to be the shepherd of talent.

Then, as with so many concepts, accountability is the key to the success of being a shepherd. This is true for whoever is assigned to be shepherding the talent of an organization. Someone needs to own it or it will own you.

As the shepherd, you are responsible to help your team members understand their talents and growth opportunities. Then you must coach them through their development. Whenever you are shepherding someone there are bound to be mistakes or failures. Look at these issues as coaching opportunities. A critical step to shepherding your talent is to prepare a development plan for each person on your team. It then becomes necessary to hold them accountable. The collective and individual development of the team leads to huge advancement in the organization, as well as job and personal satisfaction.

Shepherding the talent in your family is a very important responsibility as well.   Developing a career plan with each of your children helps them optimize their talents and sets them up to enjoy a fulfilling life. It has not always been easy, but watching each of my kids experience the benefits of a career plan that is centered on their unique talents has been one of my greatest rewards.

If you don’t help others by guiding them and growing their talent, you are missing a great opportunity in your business and in your personal life. Think of the Shepherd analogy as you work to develop the talent in your organization. Plan to consider using the Shepherd approach in your business, family or in your own life. Remember, your role as a leader at work, at home or in your own life is all about protecting, guiding and growing the talent that is around you and within you.

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Personal Accountability


I have to thank my parents, Don and Mary Jane, for so many things. But one of the most important lessons they taught me was personal accountability. You know – taking responsibility for your actions. It was one of those things that was not much fun to learn but I’m glad I did.  Today, I’m working on teaching my own kids this important life lesson.

It’s also an important factor on the job. Personal accountability is not only an important skill to have, but it is also in high demand. In a study by Target Training International (TTI), they found that in over 95-percent of the jobs they studied, personal accountability was one of the top seven personal skills required for superior performance on the job. It is one of the soft skills that make a great employee, a great leader and a great person.

TTI defines personal accountability as “The capacity to take responsibility for one’s own actions, conduct, obligations and decisions without excuses.”

It seems that nowadays we often see people in our society who want to pass the buck or blame someone else or some outside factor for their own mistake or failure. It is easier to define personal accountability than it is to live it.

How can you increase your level of personal accountability at work?

•In every meeting, use an action plan register to document all tasks with an owner and completion date. At the start of the next meeting review the action plan register first to create a culture of accountability.

•Ask one of your colleagues to hold you accountable for your commitments.

•Evaluate your performance at the end of each week or project. Are you completing your tasks on time?  How can you improve?

I often get asked by clients how can we hire for personal accountability? When developing an interview strategy, consider using the following questions in your selection process.

•What person from history do you most admire for taking the blame for a failure? What did taking the blame do for that person?

•What is the worst business decision you ever made? What made it the worst? What would have helped you to avoid making that decision?

When executing a candidate specific interview strategy for a client, SM Advisors will ask questions like these combined with behavioral assessments that can accurately measure their level of personal accountability and other soft skills.

Someone who has a strong sense of personal accountability will perform well, even when expectations aren’t clear, resources are hard to find, and competition is tough. Their accomplishment of goals goes beyond the job. Reaching for personal and professional goals is a fundamental part of who they are.  No wonder why the skill of personal accountability is in high demand.

One of the best ways to get personal accountability from others is to show it yourself. Can you hold yourself accountable for that?   Remember, Those Who Plan – PROFIT!

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