It’s important to cultivate your organization’s collective genius

Pamela Rucker talks about designing an organization optimized for employee growth.

By Jenn Webb
November 5, 2019

In this interview from O’Reilly Foo Camp 2019, Pamela Rucker, president of The Rucker Group, discusses the challenges people face when they’re entering into management roles for the first time, and how CxOs can help mitigate some of those challenges. She also talks about the future of work and how nurturing talent is going to be more important than ever.

Highlights from the interview include:

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One of the biggest challenges new managers face is asking for help or clarification during the transition to their new management role. Rucker says the issue has more to do with company culture and leadership than with shy managers. “There are some organizations where even the most expressive people have difficulty speaking up because the culture is such that you don’t go against the grain. You don’t say anything. I remember working at a large legacy organization and we had done a great job setting the tone in the room, talking about all the things that people need to work on, how they need to be able to express their challenges, and maybe where they don’t get it. So I said, ‘Tell me some of the things you’re concerned about right now.’ I saw on the people’s faces that they were ready to speak, and the C-level executives chose that moment to step up and say, ‘I really wonder who’s going to say anything.’ Instantly, everyone shut down. So, I do think it’s situational. There are times when you might have people who would be brave enough to say something, but the leader has the responsibility to enable the voice. The leader has a responsibility to let people have enough power to say something in that moment that maybe they don’t agree with, and to recognize that it’s not saying anything about them as an individual leader as much as it is about the person who might need help walking that bridge.” (02:40)

Rucker also discusses the concept of “dual paths”—not everyone is cut out to be a manager; there are other paths to fulfilling career goals, and to rewarding outstanding work. “If you think about how people transition and become more valuable over time to organizations, typically, there’s this belief that the only way for me to show additional value is for me to become a manager. … There’s an opportunity not just to progress as a manager, but maybe to go deep in your expertise, and then demonstrate how you might be well-connected in the organization or well-connected in the industry, and show how that adds value to the company’s strategic priorities. That’s just as important as being able to manage people. Talking to an organization about how they can create those types of roles is important as well because it shouldn’t be that the only way you can achieve the things you want to achieve in life is to be forced into the ability to manage people or manage projects, which may not align with your capabilities.” (05:48)

The future of work is going to raise more issues than navigating remote work or gig economies—Rucker says leaders will need a vastly different skill set. “It’s not just about technology, but also about how to look at your staff and figure out what their capabilities are and then figure out how to attach that to your capability and really use the power of collective genius. Your competitive advantage is going to come from what you know about your customers, what you know about the products and services you offer, and what you know about your people, and then how you put those things together to come up with an incredible recipe that cannot be duplicated because you have talent equity. … A leader will need to foster an environment where they all can come together and raise up those hidden talents and then collectively put them together into some type of new talent.” (07:07)

Post topics: Future of the Firm
Post tags: Deep Dive, Foo Camp '19

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