Are You Running the Right Talent Race?

Are you running the right raceA Metaphor

Imagine that you’re competing in a marathon. You’ve been diligently preparing for it for a long time. You’ve trained. You’ve recruited the people that you felt you needed to help you perform at the highest standard possible, and now you’re in that race.

But like almost everyone else in this competition, you’re behind. There are people ahead of you. You may not be able to see them, but you know they are there. And up until now, you’ve been doing all you can just to stay with the pack. You have been pacing yourself so that you can remain competitive.

Now, picture them in your mind. Some of those nearby and even those who are a little bit ahead are starting to flag. They put in too much at the beginning, and they’re running out of resources. They lack the stamina to carry on, and you are moving ahead of them.

You are emerging from the pack. Pretty soon, you can just glimpse the frontrunners, people that you couldn’t see when you were surrounded by your other competitors. And soon you begin to realize that you’re gaining ground on them.

You decide that now is the time to dig into your reserves. You take on some more fuel, and then press on with renewed determination. You even pick up the pace a bit. And then just as you begin to catch sight of the leading pack, you notice something.

You notice that there’s another marathon being run very close to the one you’re in. And you recognize some of the competitors in that race. In fact, you’ve competed against them in the past.

And then it dawns on you. You’re running in the wrong race. Although both races started from about the same place, you made a wrong turn somewhere; and now you’re running in a race that you never intended to be in.

Which race is that? It’s the one that believes that people are just another resource. It’s the one that won’t give people a job for life, but expects them all to act as though they will. It’s the one that takes their people for granted.

If this describes your situation, then rest assured that you’re not alone. It’s something that is true of many organizations, and not just those in the public sector.

Prepare for the Economic Upturn

Economic downturns are one of the most dangerous periods of time for an organization. Most business leaders agree, but do so for financial reasons. The fact is that they overlook something that is far more important, and they do it to such an extent that they begin to believe it’s the truth. It’s simply this: That the people who work for them right now will always be there.

They miss that fact that an inability to leave their organization does not negate the desire to do so. And it’s those managers who fail to realize this when times are bad who are the most surprised when their best people leave as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Which race should you be in? You should be in the one that values its people above everything else, because you know that you couldn’t have a business without them. You recognize if you’re going to treat customers like kings, then you must treat your employees like royalty.

And instead of following the larger group – the one that says that people either do what they’re told, or they get fired – you run with a much smaller one; the one that knows that its employees will do all they can to make your organization as successful as possible if they feel that you have their best interests at heart.

In other words: If you’re loyal to them, then they will be loyal to you. If you want your business to thrive when times are good, then you have to show your employees how much you value them when they are not.

You have to be in the right race. Which one are you in?

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As the founder of Emergent (, my team and I provide strategic change and program management consulting to Fortune 500 and midmarket companies. As strategists, planners, and roll-up-the-sleeves implementers, we are exceptional at what we do.Clients include Walgreens, JetBlue, Lowe’s, Mattel, Gap Inc., and many other names you would know. Typically we partner with project teams, organizational development and HR leaders, and executive sponsors.Our specialty is complex high-stakes business initiatives involving corporate restructuring, organizational redesign, mergers, technology deployments, process reengineering, and cost-cutting. We enable our clients to accelerate adoption, speed implementation, and realize ROI sooner.Emergent is the developer three online tools: --Change Accelerator ( --Savvy Transition ( --TransformationReady ( also publish Emergent Journal ( and the Emergent Insights newsletter (scroll down the page for a link to subscribe).My background includes consulting for Booz & Company (now Strategy&), Right Management, and Accenture. Prior to consulting, I served as Director of Marketing for tech company COS, Inc. (a “Facebook" for the scientific research community in the 90s). I contribute to articles for ProjectsAtWork, Forrester, Leadership & Change, TechTarget, N2, and others.