Rocketbust: It’s About Talent

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by: David Armano

So Amanda is leaving Rocketboom—by now that’s old news.  And rather then get into the drama behind it, I’d like to call some attention to what I think is a bigger issue: 

Retaining your talent.

Jason Calacanis serves up some compelling food for thought here:

“Amanda has printed her back and forth with her former partner Andrew Baron–it's really sad. This is a text-book example of how not to treat your talent (and frankly, how not to respond when you're treated bad). The whole thing is a mess and everyone winds up losing.

Regardless, there are some great lessons here for business folks. When you're on the business side your job is to:

   1. Keep talented folks focused on making great product.
   2. Get talented people paid (so they can focus on making great product)
   3. Let talented people grow and support the hell out of them (so they can focus on making great product)
   4. Make talented people feel comfortable that they are not going to get screwed (so they can focus on making great product)
   5. Make a bunch of money (so talented folks can get more money and get more focused on making great product)” 

As Jason eludes, I think this development goes beyond the blogoshphere to a basic truth that we see in a competitive marketplace.  Finding talent is tough.  Keeping it can be even  tougher.  Is it any surprise that Amanda is moving her career forward despite that she’s been “fired”?  A co-worker and I were chatting about this scenario last week before it even happened.  We mused about how long it would take for Amanda to go primetime—I mentioned how I could easily envision her hosting something like a Daily Show.  Amanda just has “it”.  It is that thing—that separates her from everyone else.  The talent which is hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.  It was difficult not to want to watch Amanda—she has that kind of screen presence.

But it’s not all about the glamour here—and I’m not talking about prima donnas.  Think about the teams that you manage who create, write, develop and build engaging interactive experiences.  Think about skills like the ability to tell engaging stories.  A talent for finding out what really motivates customers.  A sheer gift for visual or multimedia design.  Maybe even an instinct for fresh ideas and thinking.  Think about the talent that surrounds you on a daily basis—and what motivates these kinds of individuals.  Think about the challenges they crave and the rewards they seek.  Think about how good (or maybe not so good) you have it with a talented team at your disposal. 

Think about how you can serve your team.

If you are surrounded by talent, you are in a rare position you should value—if not cherish.  If you manage talent, it’s your responsibility to nourish that talent on a daily basis.  There was one portion on Amanda’s blog that really stood out for me:

“In fact, it saddens me that you have not had the time and/or willingness to significantly participate creatively in Rocketboom for some months now. We've sent you things during the production process, and what we've received back is criticism after the show has already been produced or after it is too late to make changes. Statements like "I'll continue to check my blackberry but please don’t wait on me if it starts to slow you down" and "I will have my phone so I can still chime in but don’t feel ever wait on me for any answers if I cant respond in time" really don't cut it.”

Read between the lines.  What Amanda wanted was acknowledgement of her creativity.  Her performance.  Maybe even some suggestions to make her "product" better while was being produced.  What she got instead was acute aloofness and an “I’m too busy for this” attitude.  Also—it sounds like she got “unconstructive criticism” too late in the game.  Nothing kills the creative spirit faster than this combination.

So, here’s what you need to know.  It’s a flat world.  If you have talent in your organization—it’s not difficult for others to see their talent in today’s uber-connected landscape.  And whether you fire your talent—or they leave you on their own, truly talented individuals have a way of rising to the top.

Tip of the hat to Jaffe for the Calcanis link and "Rocketbust" reference.

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