The Carlos Files: On Letting Your Top Talent Go

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Why you should care

Because the most successful organizations not only cultivate top talent, but also let it go. 

What do McKinsey & Company, Saturday Night Live and the University of Miami football team have in common? Maybe not much on the surface, but look a bit deeper and you’ll find they share an impressive ability to cultivate new talent — and then to deploy it into the world, and even harness its power after it’s gone.

Take McKinsey, a management consultancy. (I worked there in the mid-1990s.) Its massive alumni network, more than 26,000 strong, includes luminaries across business and politics: Think Sheryl Sandberg or 2016 presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. More than 70 Fortune 500 CEOs are McKinsey alums.

Or consider SNL and the veritable galaxy of stars the show has produced in its 40-year run. They include legendary freshmen members like John Belushi and Bill Murray to today’s megastars Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan. True, Lorne Michaels has steered the show through some fallow periods, but overall, he’s found an impressive array of comedic talent — that he repeatedly brings back as hosts long after they’ve left the cast.

Then there’s the University of Miami football team. No school has sent more players to the NFL or had as many first-round draft picks. How did they do it? Not by attracting top talent, necessarily, but rather on pairing their underestimated second string with the all-pro alumni who come back to campus to train during the summer season. It’s a win-win. Freshmen train with all-pro players, and the pros say training with the young guys pushes them to try more, be more and do more.

Got tips or insights on what makes an organization successful for the long run? Share them with us.

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