The novice entertainer was granted a five minute encounter with the master comedian. Ushered into the star’s private dressing room prior to the evening show, he bumbled through his one and only question:
“Sir, what I really want to know is what the secret of telling jokes?”
There was no response from the master comedian. After a few uncomfortable minutes, there was a knock at the door. Announcing time was up, an assistant entered the room and escorted the now confused and frustrated novice out of the room.
As the door started the close, the novice heard the voice of the master comedian suddenly shout out:
Timing is critical to the world of entertainment and equally important to our profession. Excellence in talent management is providing a steady supply of the right talent, for the right roles, ready at the right time . Nothing is more satisfying than getting the timing right.
But go too early or too late and the joke is on you.
Premature launches solicits unnecessary resistance or apathy, quickly getting disposed into the dust bin labeled “another waste of time by our HR department.” However, waiting until the perfect, risk-free moment to start a new imitative is a fantasy of timid souls in this fast-paced, every-changing world of business today.
Over my career, I’ve played the role of novice mis-timer more than I would care to admit. At times, I moved too quickly with what excited me (but not so the organization) or reacted too slowly to an opportunity to make a difference. Over time, I improved by watching and learning from the masters of timing in my organization. The best teachers were often sales professionals or skillful R&D product advocates. The best ones role modeled excellence in situational scanning, product readiness and personal preparation.
The master of timing is constantly scanning the environment for what is going on in throughout the company and especially with key stakeholders at higher levels. She consciously reaches out to senior leaders either directly to know what’s on their minds and calendars Because of this, she knows when is a good or bad time to bring up a new idea, when to schedule a meeting and when to even send out an email request. Call it political savvy or just plain street-smarts, it’s also knowing how the organization views her team as well as herself. What an executive coach once told me what knowing the ‘buzz’ about you and your team to judge the amount of credibility and influence available to propose something new.
The second master timing practice is judging if the new talent proposal is ‘ready for prime-time’. The novice may prematurely launch a talent product or delay with needless over-engineering. The master avoids both extremes by first assessing the minimum capabilities necessary for a solid launch. Some innovations just need a ‘lean start-up’ approach where a small pilot is tested in part of the organization and then a series of rapid adjustments are made until the product is proven and ready to go to scale throughout the organization.
On the other hand, circumstances may dictate the level of risk is too high to try anything until the new talent product is more thoroughly designed. This is especially true with new global talent products. With either rapid introduction or slow build, the master timer has a finely-tuned sense of what degree of product readiness is necessary for success.
The final dimension is personal by requiring the innovation champion to be ready for the demands of courageous leadership. While small ideas require little of this attribute, anything with meaningful impact will generate a good deal of resistance and challenge. Even with the right situation presents itself and the innovation is quite ready, the novice falls short by being over-committed, over-confident or underprepared for what’s ahead.
The master timer, on the other hand, is up for the challenge. By making the tough choices of prioritization, she has adequate time and personal energy to shepherd the new idea. Having done her homework well, she displays confidence and internal fortitude to stay focused. Yet the master possesses the humility to be open to learn and adjust when necessary.
All in all, mastering timing may be one of the most critical capabilities of a talent leader. Consider fine-tuning your sense of timing by investing in the habit of situational scanning, product readiness and personal preparation.
(c.) Kevin D. Wilde 2015