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The Talent Paradox!

The other day, I stopped by my favorite place to get a Grande Americano (espresso with hot water). Although it wasn't the place where I had been before, these coffee shops are all over the world and the coffee, on most days, no matter where I am, taste the same. The only difference is how the coffee is served, how I am received, and how I feel after the interaction with the staff. At home where the baristas know me, the service, how I am received, and how I feel after is mostly positive. However, when I am traveling, I don't always feel the same - sometimes better, sometimes neutral, or not so good.

On this particular day, I never experienced anything like this. The person taking my order engaged with me, gave good eye contact, took my order, and checked with understanding like a pro! However, there was one thing missing - emotion. When I walked up and observed her talking with her team, there was emotion, inflection in voice, and smiles, but when it came to serving me, it was robotic. The guest after me had the same experience and when she was done with the customer, she turned to her co-workers and the emotion reappeared.

My mind started spinning and I started thinking who hired this person, did she behave this way in her interview, does she really like her job, where is the manager, does the manager allow this type of behavior, does the Marriott (partnering hotel) accept this type of behavior, what is the company's mission statement, what's the screening process, does anyone care.... You get it.

I have been in Human Resources for over 25 years helping leaders attract, select, develop, and retain top talent at all levels in a variety of organizations. I am just wired this way. That simple transaction with this employee led me down the path of questioning the organization just like many of your customers question you about your practices and the people you hire. I don't care if you are in education, manufacturing, entertainment, technology, etc. Your customers have a choice on where to do business. Until we address our talent or our own understanding of leading talent, we will continue to get much of the same.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to take a deeper dive on this topic and hopefully delayer some of the themes in this brief interaction. One answer I did get from the many questions I had above was the mission statement from the company where she worked: “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Robots can not "inspire and nurture" no matter how skilled they are.

I would like to get your thoughts, comments, and suggestions while we unravel the Talent Paradox.

We always have a choice, what will yours be today?


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