Grow Them or Buy Them

2022-1208 email

A question that many growing organizations wrestle with is whether they want to grow their leadership team from existing staff (internal candidates) or source new talent (external candidates) with demonstrated leadership experience. There is understandably a sense of mutual loyalty and value in providing existing employees with opportunities for growth and development. However, sometimes leaders recognize that unique sets of skills or experiences that may not be present within the organization are needed quickly, and thus the need to look at recruiting external talent.

In a previous role as HR director with a medium-sized manufacturing facility in Central New York, my team and I often framed this dilemma as “do we grow leaders/ talent, or do we buy them?” I’m obviously not suggesting we buy people, but the catchphrase helped us look at our two choices.

With a dedicated focus on leadership, team and organizational development and performance over the past five years, I now know that this question is not a problem to solve but rather a polarity to manage. It’s not two choices, and by revisiting polarity, you’ll see why.

Problems are solvable. They are finite. They get resolved. They go away … at least temporarily. Problems have a set of choices we apply as answers that when applied, solve the problem. Polarities, conversely, are enduring. They are paradoxical in nature, meaning that the two topics are interrelated – both are needed or required for the ongoing dynamic to take place, yet we often see them as opposing choices, opposites, and sometimes in conflict with one another.

The analogy of color theory comes up when I mull over this topic, as I had also worked in R&D in a color lab for many years. If you recall your primary education when learning the color wheel, your art teacher gave you one of the most important lessons of your life that you may have very well forgotten – or worse, missed the opportunity to apply too much of your life: There are no opposites in color. There are complements. Colors across from one another on the color wheel are complementary, not opposing, and when we start to see the complementary potential in so much of what we work with as leaders, endless possibilities (like in color mixing) become available to us. The images you will paint as a leader will be richer than the black-and-white binary images we tend to be more at ease with.

The key to differentiating problems to solve and polarities to manage is to question the “or” in our comparisons. If we can replace the “or” with “and” while seeking to maximize the positive benefits of both options or topics, we will benefit greatly from managing the polarity as compared to trying to solve it as a problem.

“Should we grow or buy talent” in an organization might be the wrong question to ask, and in many cases could be replaced with “how do we grow and buy talent?” Most organizations benefit greatly from growing talent from within AND whomever we recruit from the outside, continue to grow and develop them! Growth and development are basic human needs. Developing ourselves as leaders is essential to our performance and continued success. The people we lead are no different.

If you’d like to learn more about the many opportunities, including our Community Based Emergent Leader program, for leadership and team development Emergent offers, please reach out!

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