One of the most difficult, but rewarding, aspects of being a leader lies in the identification and utilization of the talent in the organization. Identifying and utilizing the talent in an organization can be a key separator between a middling organization and a strong one. While some organizations work to identify and cultivate talent, others ignore talent entirely to focus on the development of skills.
Let’s spend a minute differentiating talents and skills. Talent refers to the natural aptitudes and abilities of an individual, while skill is a capability that has been developed through practice. Therefore, talent often refers to a broad view of a person’s abilities (he is a talented musician), while skill is more focused on a specific competency (he is a skilled pianist). This confusion runs rampant in our business world today as we find ourselves looking for the best possible people, but not really knowing what we are looking for. Too often we hire people based on a skill (i.e. how well they use Microsoft Excel) versus a talent (how well they are able to view seemingly random information and put it into a meaningful perspective).
Hiring for skill is easier and more expedient than hiring for talent because the questions are more straightforward. You can easily ask someone how long they have been using Microsoft Excel and combine that response with a few questions on specific features of Excel and have a pretty good idea of their skill level. Identifying a talent can be a lot more difficult, but much more useful to you over the long run. After all, what good is skill in using Excel if the person doesn’t inherently understand what data will be important or how it will be used?
Skills tend to be localized and short term focused, while talents are broader and bring more long term value.
"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best." – Henry Van Dyke
As a true leader your job is not to hire skilled people. Instead, your job is to hire talented people and then fully utilize the talents of every person you hire to build a value oriented organization. Instead of hiring for skills to fill a specific opening, think in terms of hiring talent that will open brand new doors with new possibilities. Instead of looking for someone with a specific knowledge set, look for someone who views a broader picture with new potential.
Start by looking at your current organization. Are you utilizing the talents of each person in the organization, or have you forced some round pegs into square holes, trying desperately to create a uniform organization? Just like two snowflakes are similar but unique, so it is with your people. When you learn to identify and utilize the unique talent of each person in your organization you will have taken a huge step in creating a work environment where every member of your team loves to come to work and strives to do their very best.
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Until next time….
ECI Learning Systems, LLC