The Talent Show

One of my friends “inherited” a team a couple of years ago. It was a very diverse group (generationally speaking) of professional people who had been managed for decades by the same person. Their perspectives about their purpose and role within the organisation were also very mixed. The journey to line up a team like this one and get things done is an awesome challenge for a person who loves the art of working with people. In a conversation with my friend about this experience, he confessed to me that he had reached a conclusion: everyone has talent, there’s no exception. The thinking that there are people who are talented and people who are not is mere snobbism. I couldn’t agree more.
As discussed here, people aren’t a commodity. And therefore, talent doesn’t depend on where you studied, what your title is on Linkedin or who is in your network. Talent is not even the subjective appraisal you receive from your manager in your annual talent review (in spite of the effort to make it objective by scoring from 0 to 4). Talent is a purely human feature that every person has in one way or another (as my admired Howard Gardner shows in his Multiple Intelligences Theory). The truth is as simple as that: there are people who work in a scenario which matches their natural talent, so it is easy for them to stand out and to be top contributors. On the other hand, there are people whose job is far away from their real talent and they will demonstrate it outside their business life, most likely as a hobby.
So that making talent shine does not become a contest and to make it attainable for everyone, we MUST put aside technical wording and those tools which are more focused on measuring than on achieving the real goal: developing everyone’s talents naturally, in the scenario where these talents will be more productive (even if this means moving to another department or, why not, to another company). Not delivering results does not mean this person lacks talent. It means this person is not at the right place. The proper path to lead people to discover their natural talents is not by using a predetermined appraisal form. It’s only by walking together with each and every person to find out what are they good at and then place those talents as the foundation of their jobs. Unleashing talent is not a matter of KPIs managed by a “talent specialist”. It’s only about self-knowledge (and that others know you) and applying creativity (and that someone helps you to apply it). Everything else is just a show.

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