“Hollow” executives in search of their talent

Pino Bethencourt. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

28 June 2005

Though managing directors and top executives invest in recruiting and training their best talent, many still have the impression that their teams are just not good enough.

Senior managers spend hours trying to come up with brilliant ideas that will shatter the market, revolutionize cost structures and make an entire sector more dynamic.

Pressure grows, attitudes become tense, working hours increase and the company’s top talents gradually become “hollow executives.” Like Keikobad’s daughter in Richard Strauss’ opera Die Frau Ohne Schatten, they are caught between two worlds, and are looking for their substance.

Bottom-line fever prompts us to lock into marathon working days, in order to produce high performance in the short term. Unfortunately, in the long term this approach literally dries up our greatest potentials. They become hollow, with neither will nor ideas, repeat the same mistakes and, in short, fail to make the most of a talent that has all the ingredients necessary for performing true miracles.

Implanting new business models that take into consideration workers’ personal lives is more than a social service. It is a commitment to full development of the talent of any firm’s most important resource: its employees.

More balanced workers

A person who has slept enough, disconnected from problems and spent precious time with friends and family is a person with substance. This person has energy and enthusiasm for applying new creative formulas, and for maintaining greater awareness of details. This person is a more relaxed team member and collaborator, and a more inspiring leader.

Incorporation of females into executive posts has opened a debate that concerns both men and women: the need to provide reconciliation, to stimulate the type of personal and professional growth required by posts of great responsibility.

For many top-level executives, the new debate now centers around “What shall we do in his or her stressed presence?” rather than “What shall we do in his or her absence?” These executives are using all their physical energy to find the mental plenitude they lack.

Certain leading companies, such as Sanitas, Coca-Cola and Barclays Bank, have started reconciliation programs that introduce new codes of conduct for employee working hours and provide training for them in stress and time management.

But companies are not the only ones who must find new attitudes. The change in habits involves new perspectives for employees at all levels. The situation is particularly critical for senior executives, since they are reference models and organizers of others’ work.

Today, more than ever, sustainable corporate growth involves the personal balance of the executive. For only if executive and company join forces will we be able to find the substance that stimulates business talent.

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