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are overrated? 2. At the heart of the McKinsey vision is a process that the War for Talent advocates refer to as differentiation and affirmation. Employers, they argue, need to sit down once or twice a year and hold a “candid, probing, no-holds-barred debate about each individual,” sorting employees into A, B, and C groups. The A’s must be challenged and disproportionately rewarded. The B’s need to be encouraged and affirmed. The C’s need to shape up or be shipped out. Enron followed this advice almost to the Page 146 Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, — and nike air max light in some cases were pushed out. How should that ranking be done? Unfortunately, the McKinsey consultants spend very little time discussing the matter. One possibility is simply to hire and reward the smartest people. But the link between, say, IQ and job performance is distinctly underwhelming. On a scale where 0.1 or below means virtually no correlation and 0.7 or above implies a strong correlation (your height, for example, has a 0.7 correlation with your parents’ height), the correlation between IQ and occupat nike air max 90 ional success is between 0.2 and 0.3. “What IQ doesn’t pick up is effectiveness at common-sense sorts of things, especially working with people,” Richard Wagner, a psychologist at Florida State University, says. “In terms of how we evaluate schooling, everything is about working by yourself. If you work with someone else, it’s called cheating. Once you get out in the real world, everything you do involves working with other people.” Wagner and Robert Sternberg, a psychologist at Yale University, have developed tests of this practical component, which they calltacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge involves things like knowing how to manage yourself and others and how to navigate complicated social situations. Here is a question from one of their tests: You have just been promoted to head of an important department in your organization. The previous head has been transferred to an equivalent position in a less important department. Your understanding of the reason for the move is that the performance of the department as a whole has been mediocre. There have not been any glaring deficiencies, just a perception of the department as so-so rather than very good. Your charge is to shape up the department. Results are expected quickly. Rate the quality of the following strategies for succeeding at your new position. a) Always delegate to the most junior person who can be trusted with the task. b) Give your superiors frequent progress reports. c) Announce a major reorganization of the department that includes getting rid of whomever you believe to be “dead wood.” d) Concentrate more on your people than on the tasks to be done. e) Make people feel completely responsible for their work. Wagner finds that how well people do on a test like this predicts how well they will do in the workplace: good managers pick (b) and (e); bad manage cheap nike trainers rs tend to pick (c). Yet there’s no clear connection between such tacit knowledge and other forms of knowledge and experience. The process of assessing ability in the workplace is a lot messier than it appears. An employer really wants to assess not potential but performance. Yet that’s just as tricky. InThe War for Talent, the authors talk about how the Royal Air Force used the A, B, and C ranking system for its pilots during the Battle of Britain. But ranking fighter pilots — for whom there are limited and relatively objective performance criteria (enemy kills, for example, and the ability to get their formations safely home) — is a lot easier than assessing how the manager of a new unit is doing at, say, marketing or business development. And whom do you ask to rate the manager’s performance? Studies show that there is very little correlation between how someone’s peers rate him and how his boss rates him. The only rigorous way to assess performance, according to human-resources specialists, is to use criteria that are as specific as possible. Managers are supposed to take detailed notes on their employees throughout the year, in order to remove subjective personal reactions f nike air max turnaround rom the process of assessment. You can grade someone’s performance only if youknow their performance. And, in the freewheeling culture of Enron, this was all but impossible. People deemed talented were constantly being pushed into new jobs and given new challenges. Annual turnover from promotions was close to 20 percent. Lynda Clemmons, the so-called weather babe who started Enron’s weather derivatives business, jumped, in seven quick Page 147 Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, The answer is that you end up doing performance evaluations that aren’t based on performance. Among the many glowing books about Enron written bef nike air max women ore its fall was the bestsellerLeading the Revolution, by the management consultant Gary Hamel, which tells the story of Lou Pai, who launched Enron’s power-trading business. Pai’s group began with a disaster: it lost tens of millions of dollars trying to sell electricity to residential consumers in newly deregulated markets. The problem, Hamel explains, is that the markets wer women nike air max en’t truly deregulated: “The states that were opening their markets to competition were still setting rules designed to give their traditional utilities big advantages.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that Pai ought to have looked into those rules more carefully before risking millions of dollars. He was promptly giv nike trainers en the chance to build the commercial electricity-outsourcing business, where he ran up several more years of heavy losses before cashing out of Enron with $270 million. Because Pai had “talent,” he was given nike air max plus new opportunities, and when he failed at those new opportunities he was given still more opportunities… because he had “talent.” “At Enron, failure — even of the type that ends up on the fr nike air max 180 ont page of theWall Street Journal — doesn’t necessarily sink a career,” Hamel writes, as if that were a good thing. Presumably, companies that want to encourage risk-taking must be willing to tolerate mistakes. Yet if talent is defined as something separate from an employee’s actual performance, what use is it exactly? 3. What the War for Talent amounts to is an argument for indulging A employees, for fawning over them. “You need to do everything you can to keep them engaged and satisfied — even delighted,” Michaels, Handfield-Jones, and Axelrod write. “Find out what they would most like to be doing, and shape their career and responsibilities in that direction. Solve any issues that might be pushing them out the door, such as a boss that frustrates them or travel demands that burden them.” No company was better at this than Enron. In one oft-told story, Louise Kitchin, a twenty-nine-year-old gas trader in Europe, became convinced that the company ought to develop an online-trading business. She told her boss, and she began working in her spare time on the project, until she had 250 people throughout Enron helping her. After six months, Skilling was finally informed. “I was never asked for any capital,” Skilling said later. “I was nike air max 1 never asked for any people. They had already purchased the servers. They had already started ripping apart the building. They had started legal reviews in twenty-two countries by the time I heard about it.” It was, Skilling went on approvingly, “exactly the kind of behavior that will continue to drive this company forward.” Kitchin’s qualification for running EnronOnline, it should be pointed out, was not that she was good at it. It was that she wanted to do it, and Enron was a place where stars did whatever they wanted. “Fluid movement is absolutely necessary in our company. And the type of people we hire enforces that,” Skilling told the team from McKinsey. “Not only does this system help the excitement level for each manager, it shapes Enron’s business in the direction that its managers find most exciting.” Here is Skilling again: “If lots of [employees] are flocking to a new business unit, that’s a good sign that the opportunity is a good one.…If a business unit can’t attract people very easily, that’s a good sign that it’s a business Enron shouldn’t be in.” You might expect aCEO to say that if a business unit can’t attractcustomers very easily, that’s a good sign it’s a business the company shouldn’t be in. A company’s business is supposed to be shaped in the direction that its managers find mostprofitable . But at Enron the needs of the customers and the shareholders were secondary to the needs of its stars. In the early 1990s, the psychologists Robert Hogan, Robert Raskin, and Dan Fazzini wrote a brilliant essay called “The Dark Side of Charisma.” It argued that flawed managers fall into three types. One is Page 148 Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, Narcissists typically make judgments with greater confid nike air max 1 ence than other people… and, because their judgments are rendered with such conviction, other people tend to believe them and the narcissists become disproportionately more influential in group situations. Finally, because of their self-confidence and strong need for recognition, narcissists tend to “self-nominate”; consequently, when a leadership gap appears in a group or organization, the narcissists rush to fill it. Tyco Corporation and WorldCom were the Greedy Corporations: they were purely interested in short-term financial gain. Enron was the Narcissistic Corporation — a company that took more credit for success than was legitimate, that did not acknowledge responsibility for its failures, that shrewdly sold the rest of us on its nike air max 95 genius, and that substituted self-nomination for disciplined management. At one point in Leading the Revolution, Hamel tracks down a senior Enron executive, and what he breathlessly recounts — the braggadocio, the self-satisfaction — could be an epitaph for the talent mind-set: “You cannot control the atoms within a nuclear fusion reaction,” said Ken Rice when he was head of Enron Capital and Trade Resources (ECT), America’s largest marketer of natural gas

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