7 Signs You’re Hoarding Your Team’s Talent

by Jennifer Miller on June 13, 2013

in Leadership, Team Effectiveness

Does your workforce feel constrained

Does your workforce feel constrained?

As an advisor to people in senior management roles, I’ve noticed a key distinction between mediocre and exemplary leaders: the best leaders don’t hoard their talent. Over at Smartblog on Leadership, I explore the organizational benefits of leaders who have an abundance mindset regarding career development.

What’s a talent hoarder? Just as a pack-rat hoards material possessions because all the “stuff” offers a sense of “safety”,  the leader with a talent hoarding tendency has difficulty envisioning “letting go” of his most skilled team members. This tight mental grip on employees’ careers causes people to feel trapped in a role that offers no chance for growth. As a result, employees think they must “sneak” to apply for internal job openings, and there is no open discussion about career opportunities.

It’s hard to envision losing your A-players to someone else’s team. And yes, it takes work to groom a replacement. But trying to “keep” people only serves to smother them and they’ll eventually tire of the stifling atmosphere and move on without your help.

You might be a talent hoarder if you:

  • Don’t publish organizational charts because you don’t want the competition to “steal” your employees
  • Can’t remember the last time an employee initiated a conversation about career growth with you
  • Don’t have a succession plan for each of your team members
  • Bypass over-qualified job candidates because you think they’ll most likely leave as soon as something better comes along
  • Forgo training opportunities for your team because they’re too busy to attend
  • Vigorously try to retain a valued employee who’s just given notice – trying to sweeten the pot by extending counter-offers when you know your heart it’s time to let her go
  • Are unable to state at least two different roles that each of your  team members would excel  at outside your department

Here’s the irony of releasing yourself from hoarding talent: when you let go, you get more talent. Why? Because you’ll gain a reputation of being a talent cultivator and you’ll attract the top talent. The best and the brightest will want to work for you, and you’ll not have to worry about what to do when your star player leaves for a new opportunity because you’ll already have a plan for bringing in (or promoting) additional talent. This becomes a self-sustaining practice – the more you help others grow, the more you attract other talented people.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Miller July 3, 2013 at 10:15 am

Duncan – glad you enjoyed the post! Even more happy to hear you had work team leaders who followed the abundance theory of staff development.

Azadeh March 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Dear Ms. Miller,

I am an Iranian EMBA student, and I wish to work on “Talent Hoarding” as the topic of my graduation thesis, but I have found very little about this in business and management Journals, so it will be very kind of you to let me have some other keywords (or names) that can help me find some more relevant studies in this regard.

Thank you in advance for your kind attention.
A. Mohammadi

Jennifer Miller March 3, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Mr. Mohammadi,

Thank you for your question. There is no research that I know of that is about “talent hoarding.” That’s a phrase I used when I wrote this blog post to describe a larger human condition. I suggest you search for “scarcity mentality” and “abundance mentality” and you will find many useful articles. I did a quick search using those keywords and discovered this book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Scarcity-Having-Little-Means-Much/dp/0805092641

Best wishes on your thesis!

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