This article about Talent Development Planning and how to get it Right – is number nine in a series of twelve about Self-Handicapping Leadership. All articles can be read without knowledge of the previous ones. You will find an overview of articles placed below.

Talent Development Planning

Great leaders find good workers and keep them proficient in their work. Talent development can refer to the processes of selecting, training, promoting, mentoring, and sponsoring employees. For us it means finding and keeping energetic, self-developing employees throughout your organization. Research shows that talent and leadership development practices are positively related to employees’ intentions to stay with, and their commitment to their organization.

Leaders often get in their own way in this process. They may hire people that are too much like themselves, thereby not adding to the needed diversity in the organization. They might hire people who will not threaten the status quo – “yes people.” Leaders can also have a tendency to rely on selection tools that look good but don’t work well. Some only go outside the organization to hire good people while others focus solely on developing talent in-house to lower selection costs.

Employee selection is a balancing game between these two alternatives. Leaders sometimes get too busy or too focused and ignore the people around them who are striving to better themselves and get ahead.

Poor Acquisition Strategies and Talent Development Planning

As much as 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions (Decker & Mitchell, 2016). The total cost of recruiting the wrong employee is very high. It includes hiring, total compensation, coaching, poor performance, eventual severance pay, and other factors like legal fees. These expenses can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a mid-level manager. Overall, the U.S. is devoting $105 billion a year (1% of total US GDP) to correcting problems associated with poor hiring and people management practices (Karsh, 2004).

23% of U.S. workers surveyed believe their colleagues are incompetent

According to The Future Foundation study, the reason for this loss is that businesses fail to match the right people to the right jobs (Karsh, 2004). Management hires may not work out because of performance issues, a poor skills match, unclear performance objectives, or cultural mismatch – the perfect candidate who clashes with the organization’s culture. Furthermore, 23% of U.S. workers surveyed believe their colleagues are incompetent and U.S. managers reportedly waste an average of 34 days per year dealing with underperformance.

Senior executives claim they spend over an hour per day managing poor-performing employees. Even worse, employees admit that 68% of the mistakes they make never come to their managers’ attention (Karsh, 2004). This time and effort could be used on value-adding tasks – it is a huge handicap.

Talent Development Planning

Poor Talent Development Planning as a Self-Inflicted Handicap

Poor talent development is almost always a self-inflicted handicap. Excellent talent development entails spending a little bit more time looking at candidates and employees. To save enormous time correcting the results of poor hires and promotions, great leaders spend the time to clarify what talent means in the organization, perceive talent development as an integrated process, and organize it as a coherent effort. They offer mentoring by true role models.

The time spent up front on these functions will save time and energy later on performance management, disciplining or firing employees, dealing with significant turnover, or trying to improve the productivity of a disengaged workforce. The talent development handicap is one of the easiest to avoid – just a little extra effort and deliberate action. Accept the premise of “pay me now or pay me later” and attend to the tools readily available.

Great Talent Management will lead the Team to Excellence

Little of this is the kind of self-handicapping that falls into the fear or self-deception categories. While some leaders may hire “yes-men,” leaders usually don’t fear to find great talent, they just don’t know how, or it isn’t their highest priority. They may have delegated this function inappropriately.

Most leaders know that lack of time is no longer an excuse in this day and age. None of us have enough time, but poor talent development due to lack of time or avoidance means the leader will spend more time down the road fixing problems. Exercising good talent management will preload skill and ability into a workforce and lead the team to excellence.

Errors of Judgment in the Hiring Process

Leaders also have a tendency to commit errors of judgment or errors of bias in the talent development planning and execution process. Leaders join groups that represent their shared interests and they carry this tendency into work. They go to lunch with friends, talk around the coffee maker about sports, and other activities. If they aren’t careful, they can carry this behavior into the search for job candidates.

They may moreover excuse a lack of work competency for a shared love of golf, or a deficit in education/certification because the applicant graduated from the same college as them. Bias in employee selection is easy to miss, but once recognized and acknowledged, it is easy to eliminate.

Talent Development Planning


Mentoring is a formal or informal relationship between two people — a senior mentor (usually outside the protégé’s chain of supervision) and a junior protégé. Mentoring has been shown to be an important influence in professional development including talent development planning. More and more organizations are creating formal mentoring programs. Successful mentoring programs do not just happen.

Most new careerists view having a mentor as a ticket to greater visibility and better assignments and promotions (Chandler, Eby, & McManus, 2010). Mentors can enjoy influence when their protégés rise to stardom. There are benefits for both, but mentoring can go bad.

Some mentors end up neglecting their protégés, because they are preoccupied with challenges in their own careers. Mentors can manipulate, especially when the mentor is the protégé’s manager in the same department. Protégés can also manipulate and harm a mentor’s reputation and career. Sometimes protégés rely on their mentor too much and they become co-dependent. Furthermore, a protégé can find a poor mentor and have no way of knowing this mentor is out of favor or out of date and providing poor advice. These situations are all clearly self-handicapping for both individuals.

Mentoring as Part of the Formal Talent Development Plannning

Organizations must devote the time, attention and resources to make a formal mentoring process work. The US Office of Personnel Management has developed a good 20-page guide for creating mentoring programs.

Step #1: Successful Talent Development Planning

The first step to successful talent management is to know what is needed. Ask yourself this question:

“In my workforce, where do most of the problems occur?”

Is it lack of skill and knowledge to do the job or is it that the employees do not have the “right” attitude, motivation, or self-concept to be effective?

We have asked this question of thousands of managers and always get the same answer. The problem areas are: attitude, motivation, and self-concept. We also know that most jobs aren’t all that difficult and that most MBAs get the same education from the same books and web courses. Differences in their skill level and education may be minimal.

We believe, as do those in companies such as Apple and Google, that selection should increasingly be based on the personality that is required to be innovative and effective in today’s high paced, complex world.

We suggest a complete review of any organization’s selection processes and a possible rebuild of competencies assessed – to those required of a mastery goal orientation, for example. More focus on personality and motivational/self-concept competencies can force us all to move away from self-handicapping in the selection process. Granted, this makes for a more expensive selection process, but finding effective employees – and especially leaders – can quickly pay for itself.

Keep in mind that the manager practicing poor talent management is still hiring based on attitude and self-concept. However, the characteristics they are searching for – unquestioning loyalty, codependence, willingness to take abuse, etc. – will create dysfunction in their organization. Is this you?

It can be difficult to admit that you need to focus on the functional and effective side of attitude, motivation, and self-concept. If you are very comfortable with all of the direct reports you receive, you should examine what you have been doing. You should be uncomfortable with innovative, independent subordinates. Independent people can be irritating.

Talent Development Planning

Step #2: Successful Talent Development Planning

Step two is to list your biases. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle vertically. On the left list any and all biases you have. Don’t worry, you can burn this list in a few minutes. Whatever your biases are – “I hire only from my alma mater”, “fat people are lazy”, “people that know Cisco are wonderful”, “red-heads are never introverted” – write them all down and then look at your list. Say, “Yes, this is me.” Then, on the right side of the sheet write down the impact for you, your department, and organization each of those biases can create.

Hiring only from one school maintains one kind of thinking or knowledge base, missing out on all the non-skinny people who are super productive, etc. Now ponder this and see how important those biases are to you.

While some biases are suppressed and they may not be conscious, 80% are conscious and you can admit to them. You choose to have and use most of these biases and some may be based on good data; just remember it is not really valid data; it is only your limited experience. So, choose to counteract your biases. Take deliberate action and change your mindset and thinking.

Tool for Mastering the Talent Development Planning and Execution

There are countless tools, methods, and approaches to making good selection decisions. Most are marginal at best. The most valid methods are expensive and time-consuming (e.g., assessment centers and work sample tests).

We suggest you look at what is used or not used in your organization and do some research in this area. A little effort to fix what is happening “up front” can go a long way towards repairing your people problems “down the road.”

Most companies fall back on the tried and true interview, because managers know the job, need to see and talk to the candidate, and interviews are quick and cheap. So, here are a few quick suggestions to approach the interview to avoid self-sabotaging talent acquisition:

  • Use an interview guide. Using a guide will increase the validity of interviewing for many reasons and can serve as a record of the interview. It makes the process easier for the manager (Decker & Mitchell, 2016).
  • Evaluate the interviewers. Good hires depend on good interviewers. To determine the efficacy of the interviewers, the outcomes of the process should be evaluated – tenure and productivity of the hires.

Barriers To Employee Talent Development

Most leaders know that they should be continually searching for young talent to cultivate and move higher in the organization. So why don’t they do this? Often it is time – too many conflicting problems.

Inhibiting the better players from entering the game just sends them to your competition, which makes them better

But some leaders, deep down, have an aversion to hiring independent thinkers. When a manager has this mindset, he is essentially keeping the team from growing, and that is self-handicapping. Inhibiting the better players from entering the game just sends them to your competition, which makes them better.

Willingness to sponsor can only start from self-reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How was I sponsored and how were doors opened for me to get where I am?
  • Do I really think I did all this on my own?
  • Do my employees deserve the same breaks I got?
  • Why am I afraid to pay those favors forward?
  • Do I have a network where I can sponsor my employees?
  • Is there some reason employees should not be developed to their full potential in my unit?
  • Am I trying to keep my employees where they are rather than help them develop? Why is that so?

As you answer these questions, you may find that you are the barrier to this kind of employee development in your organization. 


Here are some baby steps you can take tomorrow:

  • Take one job and ask yourself what is the most important competency that leads to satisfied customers.
  • Spend two minutes tomorrow with a random employee – get to know their aspirations.
  • Decide who you may consider mentoring. You don’t need to act on it, just think it through and choose a name.

See Decker & Mitchell (2016) for the baby steps for a competency determination. Baby steps for time with employees:

  • Ask what is happening in their lives.
  • Ask about their professional or job concerns. Address them, if possible.
  • Recognize good performance.
  • Ask one or more questions to begin completing the Talent Chart seen above.

Baby steps to mentoring:

  • List current people you know to determine the best fit for your mentoring.
  • Rank them on trust.
  • Ask of each individual you list: Are they motivated to succeed and excited to do what it takes to get there? Are they open to learning? Are they confident? (It can be very challenging to build confidence in someone who lacks it). Rank again.
  • Determine what you would need to discuss in your first meeting. Topics such as: the frequency of meetings, level of confidentiality, exit plan, etc. Rank one last time.
  • Choose a mentee.


Chandler, D. E., Eby, L., & McManus, S. E. (2010). When Mentoring Goes Bad. Wall Street Journal.

Decker, P., & Mitchell, J. (2016). Self-Handicapping Leadership: The Nine Behaviors Holding Back Employees, Managers, and Companies, and How to Overcome Them. Pearson FT Press.

Farr, JL & Tippins, NT (2013). Handbook of Employee Selection, Routledge.

Karsh, L. (2004). The Hidden Costs of Poor People Management. Retrieved November 9, 2016.

List of Articles in this Series about Self-Handicapping Leadership:

#1: Why Self-Handicapping Leadership can be a Hurtful Strategy

#2: From Self-Handicapping Leadership to Mastery Management

#3: Overcoming Self-Handicapping Leadership and the Problem of Accountability

#4: Self-Awareness and Self-Handicapping Leadership

#5: Tunnel Vision – Its Drawbacks and How to Stay Clear of it

#6: How to Skyrocket Employee Motivation and Engagement

#7: Be Best at the Managerial Decision Making Process

#8 Importance of Communication Skills for Leadership and Management

#9 Talent Development Planning and How to Get it Right?

#10 Are you Micromanaging? STOP IT. See Why