My work in the area of talent spotting and executive assessments has led me to a diverse range of talents across cultures and industries. While talent spotting is a structured process for deciding leadership fit, what’s compelling is the discovery dialogue.

It’s easy to get taken in with an impressive CV of a leadership talent like this one:

Graduated with Summa Cum Laude from an Ivy League university and launched his career as a management trainee in a global company. Identified in early career as a high potential, made country manager by 30, and climbed to C-suite roles by 35.

However, more experienced hiring managers and leadership assessors will probe for the relevant portable skill sets, demonstrated competencies, business and social networks, and deeper traits beneath the impressive persona like:

  • Does the individual have what it takes to drive the company to the next level?
  • What’s more interesting for me is where does the talent draw energy from?

The energy drawn is the life force that gives meaning to career goals, challenges and opportunities. Below are a few illustrations of this life force at work:

Doing What’s Good For The Next Life

Syed is the CEO of an Islamic asset management company. In our initial conversation, he described the accelerating growth potential of Islamic Finance in Asia, in particular, ASEAN. He has a range of investment strategies for sustainable investments and clarity on the company’s direction and competitive advantages.

When I asked him what makes an executive leader in this industry different from another, he immediately lights up. It’s passion. This passion derives from Islam and anchors his values. He finds resonance between his company’s socially responsible investments and making a living out of it. Above all, he feels that how he manages it will be good for his next life.

Bringing Out The Best In Others

Nazri was an accomplished investment banker. He retired a few years ago to complete his Ph.D. in Organization Psychology. Upon completion of his Ph.D., he took up the role of an executive coach and academic as he wanted to enable effective leadership in his country through executive development.

It was his experience as an investment banker that led him to pursue post-graduate studies in organization psychology. He discovered the most critical factor in deal-making was the group and leadership dynamics underlying the deal negotiations.

The unconscious drivers of plus sized egos make or derail effective organizations. Nazri thinks his experience and research can help bring out the best in leaders by coaching them to be more aware of the personal dynamics that affect their effectiveness.

Drive for Learning

Ann is a young Forex trader. By all accounts, she seems motivated by the high compensation of her profession. She talks about money all the time. In fact, she once dreamt of a Central Bank announcement that would have impacted her trading positions. She jumped out of bed and went straight for her mobile to check the validity of her dream!

For a star of Ann’s age, she is highly mobile and can easily find another job making more money. So why not? The retention factor is Ann’s team. She finds great satisfaction learning from her team members. She enjoys the intellectual challenges that characterize her team’s work climate. Trading for Ann plugs her into the continually evolving global dynamics of politics, economics and technology. She is driven to learn more about what she doesn’t know, and how that affects the flow of money.

Talent Spotting is Energy Exploration

The work of talent spotting and assessment is to recognize and draw out this energy characterized by some as passion, values, beliefs and motivation.

I call it the life force. The life force that drives a talent to seize career opportunities and rebound from setbacks experienced. It is the distinguishing factor.

The process of discovering this life force is a trusted conversation or discovery dialogue between the talent spotter and talent. It is based on questions and answers to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out underlying presumptions behind the talent’s background, experiences, perspectives and aspirations.

The true calling of a talent spotter is to recognize and locate this source of energy and to help the talent channel this energy into life-affirming work.