“The Voice” Way – Finding and Retaining “Stars” in a Hyper competitive world

I recently hitched upon the America television series “The Voice” Season 8 and am hooked to it every week. It is one of the best shows in which the strongest singers in America compete with the help of their musician coaches who are megastars themselves like Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Williams, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. I could not help but find the amazing parallels between this show and the corporate world. Please note that this blog is geared more towards managers and leaders and how to find and retain “Stars”.

The business world, where talent is of importance today, can learn practical strategies to find and retain the best talent. We live in a hyper competitive world where finding the best talent is crucial to the success of a business endeavor and half the battle solved. Managing the talent constitutes the other half.  Research has proven that high potential talent can improve the business returns by 50%.

As part of this blog, I will draw out the parallels between the 2 worlds and list key strategies from the show, “The Voice” which will help any business leader to find and retain amazing talent. Mind you, this is not the usual, outdated method followed by most corporations today.  If you are a leader in an organization and would like to take your organization to the next level, you will be compelled to think through the strategies and drive them to action. It will help you see your talent with a new pair of lens and most importantly it will stretch your status quo methods and ways of interviewing and finding talent.

“The Voice” – a brief introduction

The show’s innovative format features five stages of competition: the first begins with the Blind Auditions, followed by the Battle Rounds, the Knockouts, the Live Playoffs and finally, the Live Performance Shows. During the Blind Auditions, the decisions from the musician coaches are based solely on voice and not on looks. Once the teams are set, the battle is on. During the Battle Rounds, the coaches pit two of their own team members against each other to sing the same song together in front of a studio audience. The strongest members of each coach proceed to the Knockout Rounds. Here, the artists are paired against a teammate once more, but this time they select their own songs to perform individually, while their direct competitor watches and waits. In the Live Playoff Rounds, the top 20 artists compete to secure a spot in the Live Shows. In the final live-performance phase of the competition, the top 12 artists compete each week against each other during a live broadcast. In the end, one is named “The Voice” and receives the grand prize of a recording contract. You can read more about the rules at http://www.nbc.com/the-voice/about

The series employs a panel of four coaches who critique the artist’s performances. Each coach guides their teams of selected artists through the remained of the season. They also compete to ensure that their act wins the competition, thus making them the winning coach.

Why is talent important

Research by leading professional organizations has found the following facts about high potential talent. I will refer them as the “Stars” for the sake of parallels.

  • Less than 8% employees have a strong chance of achieving the “Star” status.
  • Most leaders indicate that the “Stars” are 50% more valuable to the business than core employees
  • Identifying and managing the “Stars” is the most important business leader activity and has the largest impact on achieving positive business outcomes.
  • Only half of leaders are rated as effective “Star” managers.
  • Manager lead development accounts for 54% of the potential improvement in the “Stars” satisfaction with career.
  • “Stars” fail to receive proper development because managers lack the ability to identify employee strengths and weaknesses.
  • “Star” employees are largely unsatisfied with the organization’s efforts to provide for their unique value proposition.
  • “Star” employees, on average, are much more difficult to retain because their skill set makes them attractive to the market

Talent Management Strategies from “The Voice”

In light of the above facts, every leader is accountable for finding the best talent and retaining them in the interest of the business and organization. The success of the business depends on finding “Star” talent and nurturing them. Economic sense dictates that if one “Star” is 50% more valuable to the business then finding such “Stars” is worth the investment.

Based on my experience in various large corporations, as a management consultant and having observed how managers fail to identify “Stars” or how they let them go due to their lack of ability to retain them I have found the following talent management strategies and tactics from the show, which could have helped them save the day. The show has been successful in finding valuable “Stars” in the last 7 seasons and has proven to be a successful model. In a connected world that we live in, I find their relevance in the business world. My focus in this blog is on “Star” talent which constitutes less than 8% of the total workforce in any organization.

Finding “Stars”

  • Finding “Star” talent and retaining them is not about you, it’s about the “Star”, however successful or high up in the ladder you are. Never forget this first key point, as the sole function of the leader is to find and develop “Stars”. Rule #1 – It’s not about you, it’s about them.
  • Ask the “Star” talent on “what they want to do in life?” Find out what is important for the talent and not what you want from the talent. Most people are driven by their passions, so finding what drives them and interests them is important. Remember the Rule #1 – it’s not about you, it’s about them.
  • Do not let experience overshadow “Stars”. Not all experiences are the same. An ordinary person may need 20 years of experience to build strength and it can be developed in 5 years by a “Star”. Understand the power of “Star” talent. There is a reason they are called “Stars”.
  • Find versatile “Stars”. Different is good. A “Star” who is multi-talented is hard to find. Don’t pick regular but other. Be comfortable with diversity. Get out of your zone to find “Stars” who are different from you. Most leaders or managers look for the sameness factor, which does not make a winning case. Entrepreneurs make up less than 5% of the population. They are examples of versatile “Stars”.
  • Feelings are important. Passionate “Stars” are a catch. Find passionate “Stars” and you will never need to motivate them although you will need to reward them. Finding what motivates a “Star” is important.
  • Evaluate if you are capable of offering the “Star” what they need. If not lead them to another leader who is more capable to build the “Star” in their area of interest. Be humble, you are already a mega star manager or leader. Remember the Rule #1 – it’s not about you, it’s about them.
  • Steal talent if you have the opportunity to do so, ethically. Your chances of finding a “Star” is only 8%, so don’t be a fool.
  • Look and focus on Strengths. A person can only be a lot more of who they already are.

“Star” qualities – What to look for in a talent

  • Is the talent a powerhouse in a specific area? Look for high energy “Stars”. You cannot teach, copy or create “energy”. You can only transform it into another form. Look for dragons who can spit fire. Energy is infectious. These “Stars” love what they are doing and it shows.
  • There is nothing like finding a “Star” who is Soul driven. This is the highest form of motivation in the Maslow’s hierarchy and wasting such a “Star” is an absolute No, No. This kind is authentic and rare.
  • A force to be reckoned with kinda “Star” is rare to find. Passionate, driven souls are super humans. They carry a unique spirit within them. You can feel them. This kind is authentic and rare.
  • Look for potential, what makes the “Star” stand out.
  • Look for differences. You do not need “Stars” who are like you. You need “Stars” who are unique and different and have potential.
  • Look for personality. That’s what sets them apart. Magnetism is a personality thing. Again, it cannot be copied or taught. Charisma counts.
  • Do they engage themselves emotionally?
  • Can they connect with the audience? Their performance should grasp and motivate the audience.
  • If a “Star” has total control over their talent, they are potential powerhouses. You may not need to invest in building them up. Just a nudge in the right direction will suffice for them. They are rare. Control in the right sense is important. Control is driven by confidence.
  • Undeniable technicalities should not be overlooked. Strength and power come through practice over years and it cannot be replicated.

How to retain and build a “Star”

  • Always, almost always, reward your talent. Nothing is more frustrating for a “Star” talent to not be rewarded for all the hard work and results accomplished. You can kill a talent’s soul and demotivate them. Cause and effect is a consistent phenomenon. Google and Apple understand this principle and they are the most liked companies in the world for “Star” talent. And they are leading companies in the world due to their “Star” talent pool.
  • Find out how deeper can a “Star” go and give them opportunities to find out how far they can go
  • Strongly believe in your “Star” if you need to win. Your belief gives the “Star” confidence and takes them to the next level. Knowing that you have your back is a huge confidence builder.
  • Push the “Stars” no matter what, to take them to the next level, to be artists. Be the coach they want you to be. Not Dr. Evil but coach. Always remember, you are building them up and not killing them. Do not change the person other than who they want to be.
  • Be straight forward in your feedback without being negative. Always offer them a better hope. The power of Hope can work wonders.
  • Teach collaboration to all your “Stars” and to function as a team even though they are competing against each other.
  • Coach your “Stars” to overcome their hurdles. Help them identify it.
  • Find a coaching partner to add something to your “Stars” which you are unable to provide. Two is always better than one. Besides the “Star” gets to hear different perspectives which builds them up.
  • Encourage your “Star” to follow their dreams and take them up a notch in their path towards it.
  • Remove all fear in your “Stars”. Fear is a negative energy and it never works.
  • If you can take a “Star” to the breaking point of their strength, it is the most convincing talent you can find. Be careful with this strategy, as it can make or break a “Star”.

I hope the above strategies and tactics will guide leaders and managers to find their “Stars” and take them up to the next level. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog which will speak to the “Stars” and their perspective. I would love to hear from you on your perspective. So feel free to comment and like the blog. Spread the love.


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