Responsiveness, the “true talent” in organizations

Cobus Pienaar, Managing Director, The Arbinger Institute South Africa

Many leaders often indicate that people are their greatest asset. I want to take it one step further and say, “No, it’s not necessarily the people in their companies, but the relationship/responsiveness between these people that makes the difference.” You may technically employ the best people, but if the relationships between them are poor, you are more likely to have mediocre teams and produce mediocre results. Have you seen bright people who cannot work together, because they:

  • Rarely ask themselves whether they are the problem or how they may be creating problems for others.
  • Seldom consider ways they could be more helpful to others.
  • Fail to seize the opportunity to help things go right.
  • Eagerly identify problems but never look for solutions.

I am guessing you have also met another group of people: I call them “true talent”. They find joy in helping others, collaborating and often seize the opportunity to help things go right. When they see a person in need they have a sense to help and energetically work to help things go right. They are the first to take responsibility.

I know such a person. His name is Lyle Markham and he is one of my colleagues at the university where I work. A few weeks ago, one of our coworkers became very ill and as a consequence realized on the day of her return to the office that she had failed to submit an exam paper that was due the same afternoon. I still remember walking past her in the corridor when I heard about her dilemma thinking to myself, This poor person, she really is going to be in serious trouble if she does not submit the paper.

When I got back two hours later, I learned from this colleague who was still very much ill, that Lyle learned about her serious predicament and stepped in by helping her compile the paper, ensuring that it was handed in on time.
Lyle sees the humanity of others and regularly offers up his own time to help. How do I know that he is the ‘real deal’? I know this, because I’ve often been on the receiving end where he helped me.

Imagine having an entire company of employees like this. Imagine the results of an organization with true talent.


“We were such a basket-case that the most effective consulting firm we could find (and it has a very high national profile) could do nothing with us, despite months of trying. Fortunately, this firm was familiar with Arbinger and referred us to them. Nothing has been the same since. We are now the most profitable company in our industry – doubling and even tripling the ROI of our nearest competitors.”

Chairman and CEO, Tubular Steel