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Talent Development Leaders — Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Talent Development Leaders — If you can’t clearly answer this question — then it is time to act.

Recently I was having a conversation around the table with a client and his managers. The discussion focused on how the Talent Development function was supporting the business. As is so often the case, the conversation centered around talent development pipelines and processes such as performance management alignment.

I listened quietly and then asked if we could shift the conversation a little — I wanted to ask a different question before we moved on…

“What do you believe makes your organization unique and gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace?”

I can usually predict what the answer will be – and it happened again here… Each person had a different answer!

This is an easy question to ask – but so difficult for many managers to answer. Try it! How would you answer it for your organization?

Well, during our discussion… the most senior executive on the T&D team’s response was “Our ability to take risks.” My follow-up question was “What does that mean?” My second question was “… And what makes you different from your largest competitor –are they not risk takers?

Another executive jumped in and said, “I think there’s a different answer to that question. I think capability in research and development sets us apart from the competition.”

The conversation then led to how to define and then to leverage their competitive advantage.

Why is this important?  — if you are not building organizational capability with this question in mind, it’s time to start! Not being able to define – and act on your competitive advantage – is a serious risk to your business. At best it is losing you money – at worst it may cost you your business!

In fairness to the Talent Development function – this problem is just as common across all functions and pretty universal across businesses.

In other words, once you clearly describe your competitive advantage you can tailor functions such as capability development and recruitment and selection to finding and developing employees to drive the business forward to take advantage of the opportunities your advantage provides.

Just try searching on Google — what you will find is that there are 50 million hits when searching for Strategic Competitive Advantage –so widely in the consciousness of organizations – YET our research shows …. only 44% strongly agree that they can describe what makes their organization different from the competition, AND 20% strongly agree that their organization’s current strategies give them an advantage over the competition.

Why is that? People are not asking the right questions and don’t have an approach that will get them to universally identify and leverage what makes them unique.

When you are in a position to address this issue… Try jumpstarting the conversation by asking leaders in your organization the following questions:

  • What must we do, know, or produce that no one else can? This is truly hard questions to answer. –the key –be honest – what is the evidence that you alone can do this?  How do you know?
  • What do we want to be best in the “world” at? However, you define your “world” –is an important context for this conversation.  Is your world truly global? Or is it the world in which you currently operate in – or perhaps the world you would like to move into.
  • What is the single best reason for our success? This allows you to focus — is it a single thing like a patent on a new product or a unique approach to something that cannot be easily replicated?
  • Is our advantage anything that a competitor could say about their organization? This is the true “smell” test. Again, be honest with yourself. If this is not the case – you have a competitive advantage –if not, maybe now is the time to secure one.

Only when your organization is clear on these important questions can you reshape your Talent Management Strategy to take full advantage of the opportunities your competitive advantage provides.

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President Blog

What I’d Tell the Next President

Whoever takes the White House is going to face a country in transition. Here’s what the experts want POTUS to know on Day 1.

Shift the Tone – Our country needs leadership – and it needs to come from the top on day one. You need to shift the way people think about how Washington works. It is not all about “executive orders” or what you are going to “tear up.” It is about changing the America Psyche. Set a new tone with the American people —- let them know that there “is” a solution to every problem … and the best way to solve them is collectively with those who have strong differences. It is about relationships and not just rules. Think about the relationship that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill had. There was a mutual respect and they genuinely liked each other. Reagan and O’Neal were able to find common ground even though they philosophically were polar opposites. Many credit them with saving Social Security. As the President, your words and actions mean much more than they did after the November Election. During your first official day in office, bring the leaders from both parties together and announce that you will be hosting a Camp David Summit. Why Camp David? For decades it has been a place to bring world leaders together to build broken relationship and address the most important problems. Couldn’t leaders from both our parties use that? With the desire to change the tone, I would suggest a theme – How Good Can America Be? The purpose would be to outline an agenda and jump-start an important Leadership conversation around clearly identifying what has given the U.S. a competitive advantage in the world; and, more importantly how we sustain that for the years to come. Not only would this be symbolic, it would show leadership and action.


Paul V. Butler President, GlobalEdg and Co-Author of Think-to-WinUnleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking


New Leaders – Who could slow you down?


In today’s fast-paced environment, the window that a new leader has to win is short.  If you do not have a way to quickly determine who on your team you can depend on – you can’t WIN!

I was on the phone last night with the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) from one of our new clients. A pulse check on how her team was doing led to a discussion on how she uses the strategic thinking approach to quickly assess the capabilities of the people she has on her team.  “When I come into an organization, I have a quick window to not only assess my function, but to determine who best fits with where I want to take the organization.  As a leader, I have been brought in for a reason — to help an organization grow.  We can only do that if we know where we are – where we want to go – and who is going to help us get there.” I want everyone to succeed, and I need to see who on my teams can and will contribute immediately and what help others might need to quickly get there.

A disciplined approach to Thinking, Planning, and Acting does more than just produce a great plan. When done collectively with a new team, it provides a new leader a chance to observe and work with his or her team and quickly assess who is going to help you produce quick wins.   An approach that combines the tools of strategic thinking with the principles and practices of collaboration is powerful. It helps a new leader quickly begin to answer the following:

 Who is able and willing to work as a team member to collectively solve problems?

Who on my team is open to new ways of thinking about previously held beliefs?

Who is able to quickly identify and communicate the most important issues?

Who has displayed both functional skills and leadership capabilities?

Who can get things done?

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UMASS Boston Speaking event 3-20-16

Paul Butler Speaks to Business Fraternity of UMASS Boston

Paul Butler President of GlobalEdg, and co-author of the business book Think to Win, had the opportunity to speak with the Delta Sigma Pi Xi Phi business chapter of UMASS Boston on March 21st, 2016. Paul was able to share stories of his own experiences and help these students with their career searches. Paul began his talk with asking a very important question to the students, what makes you unique to prospective employers? Paul was able to guide these students in answering that question through strategic thinking business tools displayed in Think to Win. The students of Delta Sigma Pi Xi were given an opportunity to examine how to build their own strategic plans for their careers. Paul used proven practices and strategies from Think to Win to walk these young professionals through a process that would not only help them in a career search but throughout life, and by the end of the event they were able to answer that important question.

If you would like Paul to speak at your event contact: or 203-405-6810

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Do You Want to Win?

Are you a soon-to-be college graduate thinking about looking for your first professional job and feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Candace when she started her job search discovered in Think To Win (TTW) her business class textbook a process that saved her time and helped her to be realistic about her choices. In addition it explained how to evaluate herself as a prospective employee and evaluate the threats and opportunities in the job market.

Candace researched the job market and found prospects not as bleak as she had imagined. She realistically looked at the geographic area for her job search and found opportunities existed in NYC and Boston two of her first choice cities.

An honest self-evaluation of the skills she possesses and the ones she needs to improve have further sharpened her career focus. She is aware of the competition but as a young creative person with strong social media skills she is confident she can make an impression.

Candace wants a position with an organization where she can learn and grow as a person and a professional. What’s next for Candace is to network her personal and professional contacts and look for employment opportunities. She plans to keep TTW handy as she navigates the strategic process for her first professional job and future endeavors.

Now ask yourself:

Do you know how to position yourself in the job market, based on your strengths, and weaknesses?

Have you taken into consideration the people you know and how they could help you?

What will you specifically do? Who can help you? When will it be done?

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Stand out in a professional job market!


As a college senior can you list the abilities you have that will make you a stand out candidate in a competitive professional marketplace?  As explained in my last post, Candace is ready to examine her abilities as well as the job market opportunities following the suggestions she found in Think To Win.  An honest evaluation of both her personal abilities and the employment environment will help her to narrow the type of position that fits her needs.

Candace’s wants to find an entry level position where she can learn and advance personally and professionally. Her research shows that her BA in Communications along with her social medial expertise positions her within a wide range of today’s businesses and organizations.  Her strong interpersonal communication skills have made her confident in networking and leaving a strong on and offline presence. Her recent internship has helped build a resume displaying her relevant experience and it has enhanced her professional connections.

Granted, Candace knows she has some weak areas to work on like her public speaking stage fright and her need to be a perfectionist. She knows she can improve on these over time. To start, she plans to take a public speaking class which will help with her speech nerves.

Examining the opportunities in the marketplace Candace finds her advantages include her expertise in social media and the growing opportunity for young creative minds in the workplace. As Boomers retire and Gen Xers move up, entry level positions for Millennials seem to be opening up. While Candace realizes there is the threat of competition from the multitude of grads with similar skills and degrees; the challenge of making herself the best candidate is one she can deal with.

At this crucial point in Candace’s life when she is ready to move into her first professional position; she sees her online presence and her communication expertise as competitive advantages. Her research shows there are opportunities to explore in a number of different fields where her youthful enthusiasm and knowledge can benefit her and her future employer.


 Make a list of your strengths & weaknesses:





Now, what are your opportunities and threats:





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What keeps you awake at night?

Are you an aspiring professional who can’t foresee a seamless transition from college graduation to the work force?  In my previous blog, I introduced Candace, a college senior and explained I would follow up with more posts showing how she used the strategic analysis process she learned from our book Think to Win (TTW) to find her dream job. In this post, I will show how she started her search.

She decided instead of wasting time staying up nights worrying about getting a great job and paying student loans; she would put her knowledge to good use and follow the suggestions in the book. She reread the first three chapters of TTW and began her research to discover exactly what the market was for a college senior seeking her first professional position and where was the best location to look.

Talking to classmates, the conversation about getting a good job right out of college frequently comes up. Everyone seems to bring up the current assumption; finding your place in the workforce is a difficult process. Candace recalled two main ideas from TTW; challenge assumptions and get the facts. This made sense to her so she used her research skills to find hard evidence about the current and future job markets.

Candace’s next step was to be realistic about the geographic range in which she should do her job search. She had often dreamed of moving to California after college but this wasn’t the best time. Candace, like most college seniors has student loans and a cross country move was not realistic. Instead, she focused her job search on the Northeast looking at the Big Apple and Boston. For now she wanted to stay home where she could still enjoy mom’s home cooking, and a free place to live as well as a chance to save money for future moves or to double down on loan payments.

Candace began to think that her job search might not be as stressful as she though. She believes that the ideas in Think To Win have helped her see what to do to succeed in finding her first professional position. She realized that by doing the research and being realistic she was ready to start her search. In the next step of her job search, Candace will need to evaluate her goals and abilities and see where they fit in the real world job market.

Do you find yourself in a similar situation as Candace?

List three things that are keeping you awake at night:




Make a list of assumptions you have about your current/future job market:





Now, go challenge these assumptions!


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GlobalEdg Leadership Diary #3 — Your Competitive Advantage — What makes you standout & win?

winningA few years ago my brother and our wives were vacationing at a resort in Florida. On our second night there, we were sitting on the balcony of our room enjoying the warm weather and the incredible view of the Ocean. Shortly we noticed a steady stream of people heading to the poolside patio … dressed in business casual attire – each wearing a nametag. They were headed to a corporate company cocktail party.   As we looked on with curiosity, we began noticing a similar pattern. As people were getting closer to the patio they seemed to behave in a similar way — hand to the head to make sure their hair was in place, as well as a quick glance down at their nametag to see if it was visible and not upside down. There were even similar facial expressions – eyes darting around and a slight smile (either excitement or nervous laughter). Even the pace of walking began to change and each seemed to pick up as they were closer to the party. While observing, my brother and I found ourselves talking about how similar we often found ourselves behaving – preparing to make the right impression. We were putting on our “game face” at such corporate events.

The game? how to stand out and win…with the people we work with/for. The cocktail party illustration can be a small example of how we try to differentiate ourselves at work. Obviously the real way to stand out is with the contributions you make to your organization.

Winning is defined in different ways by each of us; however, we only win when we are able to realize we all have unique gifts that allow us to differentiate ourselves from others in our chosen professions … we all have a unique way of delivering value — competitive advantage in one way or another. The question remains how do we know what it is. In our book Think to Win, we outline how both teams and individuals can address this. The process is simple yet compelling – a few questions can serve as criteria — Consider the following:

  • What really differentiates us?
  • Is it something no one else could say about themselves?
  • What is the source of this?
  • How do we sustain it?

Using the tools of business are important and applicable to us personally. What differentiates you? How are you leveraging it? We all have unique gifts and ultimately stand out at any cocktail party.

To gain insight on how Thinking to Win can help your business and life at



GlobalEdg Leadership Diary #2: I wish I would have “got this” earlier in my career!

Earlier in my career, I was a young sales manager for a healthcare company with a mentor who “taught” me the importance of setting the right priorities. It was about the numbers! “Your number one priority is hitting your quota – that’s how you get ahead – that’s why we hired you!” Well guess what happened, the job became about hitting the numbers. Sales meetings became about setting priorities, numbers, quotas, targets etc. We couldn’t wait to get out of those “dreadful” sales planning meetings. I look back upon those days – they seem kind of silly now. We were missing something really important. If I had only thought differently – what might have been possible?

Earlier this month, I was facilitating an executive retreat for a major healthcare company and something very important took place. Imagine a room filled with senior executives who were there to discuss and align on the 2016 priorities for the business. The conversation that followed was truly remarkable.

I started out by asking the executives (there were about 40 of them in the room) two questions:

  • The first question was how many of you come to work each day trying to lose money for the company? As you can imagine – a few chuckles were followed by no hands being raised.
  • The second question I asked was how many of you think your work makes a difference in the lives of others? All the hands went up!

A very interactive dialogue centered on what are the “priorities on behalf of.” Yes, the team needed to execute around things that were going to drive growth, productivity, and innovation; and, that did happen – but in a different and more purposeful way. The whole conversation shifted to “purpose” and stories of how patients and health care professionals benefited from the company’s products and services.   Throughout the retreat –when a priority discussion ensued –it was often followed by a quick story on how that decision would impact clients and / or patients while supporting the desired business results.

A priority conversation during a business meeting allows people to quickly align around what results the business must produce. Now that is not silly.

Leadership – What was I learning early in my career? Not what Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings is teaching!

netflixWhy is this memory imprinted in my brain? Although this happened to me over 25 years ago, I remember it so vividly. This article triggered it again! (Link below)

I was a newly promoted manager who had “made it” – being promoted to the home office. During the first few weeks in my new assignment, I was working late when the President of the Division walked by my office door. He stopped, looked in my office –then directly at me and said “You are a hard worker aren’t you?”  He smiled and then said, “I am impressed.”

Why was that important? Well it sent a message to a young and ambitious manager –so much so that I found myself cultivating that reputation. I wanted to be known as one of the hardest working managers in the company. I often found myself looking out the window in the early evening – seeing whose car was still parked outside. It also became a “game” to brag about how many unused vacation days I had at the end of the year. I wanted to be known as the hard working “problem solver.”

Looking back, it seems really silly now. I became burnt out at an early age. Fortunately I was able to recover through the help of good coaching, mentoring and family support.

I am sure I did solve some problems – but where did it get me, my team and ultimately the organization? We had success, but I know we missed our potential because I did not work smart.

It is not about activity it is about results. That happens when you are able to step back and give yourself time to thinking about what is most important. It is only when your shift your mind to results versus activity are you able to win. Then you become the strategic leader who Thinks to Win!

The Next generation of leaders are the ones who will get it right.

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