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Talent, Passion and Ambition – The Keys to Performance Management

Talent, Passion and Ambition – The Keys to Performance Management

Most leaders agree that people are their company’s #1 asset.  Yet, HR leaders struggle to find the best metrics by which to achieve solid performance management.  Talent acquisition is usually done based on candidate competencies.  Specific job objectives are used to manage people once on board, and incentives are the most common motivational tool.  However, there are very valuable tools that can work even better for acquisition, management and motivation.

Talent: It is critical to evaluate talent in the context of how the talent is to be used. In past articles, we’ve discussed the pitfalls of behavioral or competency-based interviewing.  If employers manage people to objectives once they’re on board, it seems like common sense to hire based on those same objectives.  For example, instead of asking a person to describe their leadership experience in general, it is more valuable to get them to describe specifics:  “We need outstanding technical leadership skills to position us as cutting edge with our customers.  What have you done that would prepare you to achieve this goal for us?” By identifying the critical objectives of the job up front, then using those objectives to evaluate prospects, an employer can discover the candidate’s specific ability to perform and achieve the objectives.  Simply looking at behaviors or competencies in a vacuum (without defined objectives) is not useful.  We must understand talent by how it is to be deployed.


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Passion: Passion is a powerful, compelling emotion.  If you ask most people “Do you love what you do?, they might chuckle and reply “I don’t even like what I do!”  Yet, how often do employers take this into account in managing people?  Do we discover the passions of our key people?  Do we tailor assignments to those passions?  Leveraging the collective passions of employees can turn a good organization into a great one.  Imagine the competitive advantage that could be gained in knowing what gets your employees revved up, aligning those strong feelings with your mission and purpose, and directing actions accordingly.  Would you even have to manage such people?  When an employer discovers how to capitalize on the core motivation of its people, it is indeed limitless.

Ambition: Ambition is the desire to reach an objective, and the willingness to strive towards that goal.  It is the next step beyond passion, because it has a direction.  Where do your people want to go, both individually and within your company?  Understanding what success looks like to each person enables you to tie jobs and rewards to real motivators.  Monetary incentives are important, but employers are often surprised to find out that other things besides money can produce strong results.  Sometimes it is small internal recognition, or horizontal expansion of responsibility; things that are simple for an employer to deliver.  Throwing money at people is easy, but more expensive, and sometimes not even that fruitful.  Discovering what they’re heading for personally, and providing a road map to align your goals with theirs can be highly productive.

Ensuring that you have the specific talent needed to achieve goals is critical in employee acquisition.  Channeling the passion and ambition of your people in productive directions and providing the non-monetary rewards they really want will help you get the results you want.  Then you can take your company to the next level.