Finding good talent is tough.

Keeping great talent is tougher.

Sharing exceptional talent is the toughest.

Organizational leaders have been plagued with what I call “Headcount Hysteria™” for many (many) years. This condition revolves around the sharing of cross-functional talent and fear of losing a star-player only to not have them replaced. The common symptoms are:

  • Lack of agreement, confusion, resistance and a general absence of understanding what playing as one team looks like.

Unfortunately, this type of negative behavior regarding sharing talent is nothing new and the impact can typically be felt across the entire organization, from the first being culture but a close second being talent and performance.

Watching leaders engage over talent should be a healthy dialogue and not a WWE Cage Match. The talent and the companies mission should always be front and center, while ego’s and insecurities a distant second.

As a father of two, I have seen firsthand how challenging sharing can be for siblings and other kids. Whether it’s a toy, clothing or book, no matter the item in question or the length of the struggle, there is always an outcome – one which we parents strive to make positive. I believe leaders can learn a thing or two (or more) from toddlers when it comes to improving their ability to share with others regarding talent and here is what I learned.

The Psychology Of Sharing

According to a NYT White Paper about the psychology of sharing, there are 6 sharing personalities:

  1. Altruists: They are primarily motivated by a desire to bring valuable content to those they care about and a desire to get the word out about causes – and brands – they believe in. While this group is less motivated by self-interest, they still like to know that what they share was received and appreciated.
  2. Careerists: Focused on developing a strong network of personal and professional contacts, Careerists like to bring content and people together in ways that are meaningful and actionable. They also enjoy getting credit for doing so. They share to create discussion and debate and to elicit useful recommendations.
  3. Hipsters: They like to start a conversation, debate or controversy. It is important for Hipsters to be the first to share things with others, and they are always looking to connect with like-minded people. Sharing is so important to this group that they actively seek out content simply to create more opportunities to share.
  4. Boomerangs: Motivated primarily by the reaction they get back from sharing, Boomerangs like to stir the pot, start a debate and generate a lot of comments and “likes.” For Boomerangs, a negative response is better than no response at all. Sharing for this group is driven, in large part, by a need for validation. Similar to Hipsters, it’s important for Boomerangs that they are the first in their networks to share new content.
  5. Connectors: Sharing for Connectors is about mutual experiences and staying connected. Connectors, more than any other segment, sharing is not just about distributing content, it is about including others in a shared, content-based experience. Connectors like to share to create new connections with like-minded people.
  6. Selective’s: This segment shares information that they feel will be of value to a particular person, and only if they think the recipient would not have found it on their own. Given the time and consideration invested in what they share, they expect that the recipient will respond and express their appreciation.

Why We Share

There are many reasons why people like to share (anything) but this article did a fantastic job outlining the most common ones:

  • We share to look good (Impression Management)
  • We share to feel good (Emotion Regulation)
  • We share to teach, and help (Information Acquisition)
  • We share to connect (Social Bonding)
  • We share to convince (Persuading Others)

What Toddlers Can Teach Leaders

Whether you are reading this as a parent or not, there is something here for everyone. The bottom line is that teaching a toddler to share (anything) can be quite tough and requires patience, commitment and love. The same could be said for adults which is why the following five reminders are critical and applicable to leaders sharing talent. Here is some sound advice I found in my research and my personal POV on how they can apply to leaders in the workplace:

#1) Start Young. From the time your child can grasp an object, you can teach sharing by passing the object back and forth while saying “my turn, your turn.” Learning how to take turns is the first step in sharing.

  • Leader lesson: Be respectful, professional and allow the other person to express themselves fully before replying. Remember to model the behavior you would want to see in others who are watching you.

#2) Make believe. Co-operative games that don’t involve a single winner for children three years old and up. While competition isn’t bad, it isn’t appropriate for preschoolers.

  • Leader lesson: Although competition can be a part of both your DNA and your companies culture, look for how you can set up the dialogue inside of a win-win context.

#3) Bring a pocket timer to playdates. When it rings, it’s your child’s turn to give a toy to their friend, then they get it back once the timer rings again, and so on. They start learning that giving something away isn’t for always.

  • Leader lesson: Consider putting a time constraint on each person’s presentation or opportunity to speak about their talent (needs). This will set the stage for fairness, something our brain naturally craves and is hardwired for.

#4) Do prep work before playdates. If you’ll be the host, help your child stash their favorite toy — the one they genuinely couldn’t bear to let another kid touch — in a safe place. When you go to someone else’s house, chat beforehand about what to expect, recalling highlights from her last successful playdate.

  • Leader lesson: Before entering into a conversation or meeting on talent resources and sharing, make sure you set the ground rules, objectives and potential outcome beforehand to ensure alignment amongst your attendees.

#5) Compliment kind behavior. As important as it is for you to step in and correct bad behavior, it’s equally important that you praise the good. Make sure your little one knows they are sharing nicely and that you’re proud. That reinforcement will help her remember the acts that got them kudos and will be more likely to repeat in future playdates.

  • Leader lesson: Simply put – nice begets nice. By acknowledging another for being the type of person and displaying the type of behavior you are hoping to achieve in the meeting can go a long way. Never underestimate the power of an acknowledgement.

Final thoughts: Just as any parent struggles each day with wondering how they’re doing raising their kids, leaders also struggle with wondering how they are doing developing their people. There is a lot to learn from what we teach, act and say to kids and how the same messaging can apply to leaders sharing talent in the workplace. Just as there is no manual for parenting, there is no one exact method that will work for leaders in this arena. The key for both is to be patient, empathetic, present, open and committed.

The floor is yours: How does the lack of sharing talent impact workplace culture?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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