I just got back home to Orlando after spending Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C., at The Talent Management Alliance Conference on Assesssing & Developing High-Potentials. I was honored to keynote and chair this event which was attended by well over 125 VPs and Directors of HR and Talent Management. What a fantastic event! I enjoyed meeting and connecting with many outstanding leaders and practitioners in the field.

My focus in many of my talks is getting operating leaders and HR to understand the predictive relationships that exist between the quality of their leadership assessment and development practices and operating results such as EBITDA and revenue. Less than a year ago, my colleague Bonnie Hagemann and I researched and published a major executive development and trends study with Pearson that clearly identified that most organizations have a long way to go in strengthening the very talent management practices that do in fact drive operating success. Yes, positive strides have been made, however, across the board–regardless of size, industry, country, etc., there is much that needs to improve.

I heard many insightful presentations from the talent management leaders from GE, Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Ingersoll-Rand, IBM, Cargill, Siemens, etc., and it was reinforced again that the Need to Identify & Develop Leaders and Future Leaders is the #1 issue facing businesses today—this is and will be the issue defining the next 10-20 years in the world of business. In one of my speeches I talk about “Twenty 2020”–my research-based concept that identifies the twenty talent leadership practices and processes that need to be “optimized” NOW  by any company in any industry to mitigate operating risk and ensure they continue to operate at least until 2020. It is one of my most popular speeches. Based on the presentations I heard, however, while most of the big companies have fairly sophisticated approaches (i.e., on paper) to handling this challenge they continue to struggle executing what’s on paper. For most of the mid-sized and smaller organizations, the gap between “where they are” and “where they need to be” is even greater.

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