posted 26 Oct 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 3
What I learnt about talent management from Marie Helvin
By Richard Cross
MOST TALENT management perspectives take a corporate point of view. A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, for example, recently revealed that CEOs assign as much as 50 per cent of their time to talent management. Similarly, researchers at
By contrast, Mick Cope of coaching, consulting and training firm WizOz, describes two ways to define talent management: first, the classical human resources (HR) definition that focuses on succession planning; and second, an alternate view, where you have to recognise that talent resides in the whole organisation, not just in the top 10 per cent.
Mick is right to address the imbalance. Where there is no such concept as a job for life, individuals have to maintain their ‘employability’ through managing their own development and career progression.
We all have to manage our own talent.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of fashion. There, we can all learn from the experience of the original global supermodel Marie Helvin. She has been an iconic image in every decade since the 1970s. Her recent autobiography provides some useful insights on how to manage a career where talent is all. Admittedly, as the muse of photographer David Bailey, she had a rarefied and surreal lifestyle. However she was – and is – a star in her own right.
We can all learn from how Helvin managed her talent through her approach to knowledge retention and sharing, social networking, and how she deals with success.
In terms of knowledge retention, Marie had a headstart. Right from her schooldays, when she attended psychology classes, Marie learned about speed reading, memory enhancement, and visualisation techniques.
I guess it comes in useful when you have to deal with people who make perfection out of managing chaos, such as Karl Lagerfeld, or keep bumping into fellow jetsetters when living at airports.
So how do you store your important information? And can you use it when you meet people socially or out of context?
Marie’s attitude to knowledge sharing stands out. She gets the cold shoulder in her early modelling days in
She became determined to share any tips she had about make-up or agents or anything else freely. “In future, if luck came to me,” she adds, “I would make sure to spread it around.”
It’s an interesting perspective and reminded me of some of the research that Dan Holtshouse and I had conducted when we looked at high-performing service engineers. There, high performers turned out to be proactive sharers with their colleagues, going beyond expectations in contributing to the collective know-how of their community, while low performers were more likely to be knowledge hoarders.
Food for thought, indeed: How well do we share our own tips and contacts with our colleagues and competitors?
As for social networking, Marie is second to none. She was into networking before e-mail. She was, after all, the individual who introduced the Princess of Wales to Dodi al-Fayed.
True, most successful people have large networks, but more important than the number of contacts is the diversity of their networks. Captains of industry have contacts in politics, entertainment, non-profits, journalism, academia, and many sectors of the world of business. So do icons of the fashion world.
So how diverse and rich (and not just in monetary terms either!) is your network?
Marie is a natural networker and as her career unveils it easy to spot people who pop up time and time again in her life. She knows almost everyone in her world, and she doesn’t need Facebook or Linkedin! What she does have, at different points in her life, are effective and connected mentors, as well as good friends to help her through tough times.
So how connected are your mentors? Your wealth is also in who you know.
Finally, while Marie is famous, we can all learn from how she deals with her own talent and ‘fame’ to stay at the top.
She is gracious. Quoting her ex-husband David Bailey she concludes, “If you are successful, you have to become a nicer person, because if you don’t, there is something wrong with you.”
Approaching talent management simply, from the perspective of an organisation, is mechanistic and unrealistic. The fact that Marie Helvin could relaunch her modelling career at 50 says it all.
In managing our talent we can all learn from personalities of our time. And Marie Helvin is certainly one of those.