Q&A: Nick Pothecary, Clear Value Vision

Nick Pothecary is Chairman (Asia, North America & Europe) of Clear Value Vision, an international provider of solutions for talent management and leadership development. Ahead of Nick's presentation to the 7th Annual Shared Services & Outsourcing for HR event in Singapore, we spoke with him about how the credit crunch and recession have impacted upon the talent management space - and about the importance of a clear value vision...

SSON: Nick, let’s start with the big issue: the credit crunch and consequent global downturn have had repercussions throughout the shared services and outsourcing space. What do you see as being the main consequences in the areas of talent acquisition and talent management?

Nick Pothecary: The pressure has increased such that many of the fault lines that already existed in talent management and acquisition are now more evident. Many companies and organisations are discovering that they are ill-equipped, from a talent management perspective, to cope with the significant challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed. Simply responding to the situation based on well-worn perceptions can lead to ill-advised decisions and costly mistakes. Good talent is hard to find and even harder to keep – it is also hard to measure hence the difficulties many managers and stakeholders face when making a business case to "save" the talent needed for today and recruit the talent needed for tomorrow.

SSON: Have the key leadership competencies required by organisations changed as the business environment has been altered in recent months? In other words, does a certain kind of individual thrive in troubled times?

NP: Certainly there are individuals who will thrive in troubled times and others who will struggle. In terms of leadership qualities though it’s not so much a question of any "new" skills being required, rather it is a question of maturity – do we know ourselves and others well enough to optimise our strengths and act with conviction in such a way that we actually grow through the experience. It can be easy to blame external circumstances but taking responsibility is a far more mature approach and much more likely to deliver desired outcomes.

Good leaders add value: to people, to performance, to the mission & the goals. Bad leaders reduce or take away value from the very same things. But one person’s good is often another’s bad and vice versa. The issue of "goodness" or "value" is thus constantly creating very real and often very problematic and costly dilemmas. Especially now as the business environment changes so dramatically, we are seeing actions that are often seen as both good and bad - cutting costs by almost blindly eliminating talent being an obvious example.

SSON: Why is "thinking about our thinking", as you put it, necessary for business success?

NP: Our actions, decision making, reasoning and our feelings are all preceded by our thinking – or more precisely by our values and the different ways we evaluate people, situations and things. Values are like an invisible currency. Not visible as paper notes or coins or measured on inventories and balance sheets, they are nonetheless powerful forces that can either ensure great rewards or cause great havoc. As such they merit great attention.

SSON: Can you define a "Clear Value Vision" and why you believe this to be so important?

NP: Awareness, clear understanding and an ability to respond appropriately constitute Clear Value Vision. It’s about clarity in seeing the value of people, the value in performance and the value in the mission and goals. Clear Value Vision is to value as focus is to eyesight. It brings forth the detail in our values and our valuing processes and allows us to exercise good judgment, have excellent relations and sound principles to live by

SSON: Do you consider it important that organisations operating over several very different geographies with different socio-cultural bases maintain a single organisational culture and value vision? And if so, how can organisations do this while simultaneously recognising and respecting these cultural differences?

NP: Much has been said about managing cultural differences and much has also been missed because different kinds of value have been confused, missed entirely or exaggerated. Individual value is good, relative or practical value is also good and so too is absolute value. Let’s say that these types of value are represented by people, performance and the mission and goals respectively. In too many organisations these 3 basic "ingredients" are mixed in proportions that lead to business practices which regularly yield poor results. It’s like a bad tasting cake where the recipe itself is never questioned!

If an organisation can honour individuals in light of the tasks which must be accomplished then it has a recipe for success and fulfilment. First understand your ingredients, in this case the true nature of your people, performance and the goals and then you can produce the most amazing delicacies

SSON: How can organisations measure – both before hiring and whilst on the job - how well individuals fit with their team and general organisational culture? And can that measurement be subjected to coherent statistical analysis?

NP: Thanks to recent breakthroughs in the development of so-called "deductive methodologies" then accurate measurement of individual fit and cultural fit are now a practical reality. One such example is the Hartman-Kinsel Value Profile which is now beginning to gain a significant foothold in talent acquisition and talent management largely because it can do these very things and do them very accurately even when the pressure is high. The HKVP is like a description and a prescription – more like physics than psychology it has the power and general applicability that all too often is missing in its counterpart tools – those based on inductive method.

SSON: You’ve stressed the importance of recognising what motivates individuals, to encourage them "to behave in the way that is most desirable". How can companies best recognise and leverage these motivations?

NP: Step 1 is to become aware. Step 2 is a calibration of for example "our core values" and "competencies". Step 3 is to practice until those values and competencies become permanent (not perfect!). Using validated deductive tool such as those based on Value Science is a fast and effective place to start whether in talent acquisition or talent management generally.#