When making hiring decisions, most leaders look for well-rounded individuals and create a list of skills and experiences they would like a job candidate to possess. Unfortunately, very few leaders have knowledge of the talents required for the job. Talents are habits and tendencies wired into our brains from an early age—things like leadership, flexibility, love of learning, or empathy. On the other hand, knowledge and skills are learned and mastered through experience.
Talents can rarely be taught; therefore, talent is highly coveted by astute hiring managers. If talents could be learned, we would all have the potential to be LeBron James. So instead of hiring a well-rounded individual, hire a talented individual that will help to form a well-rounded team.
Interestingly, once an employee is hired, many business leaders think that the biggest potential for improving an employee’s performance is to fix their weaknesses. However, employees will rarely become strong in an area of weakness. Focusing on an aspect where an employee lacks the talent and the passion will only raise that employee to mediocre status.
Conversely, the sky’s the limit on the potential of someone who has natural talent and passion in a given area—they can become a world-class employee. Therefore, leaders should learn to leverage their employees’ strengths to achieve world-class status instead of focusing on their weaknesses and achieving mediocrity. Additionally, focusing on maximizing the areas where an employee has true talent and passion is incredibly motivating for them and beneficial for the company.
Four Steps to Greatness
For a company to become an incredible company, managers must learn to leverage the incredible talents of their employees. Your company and employees can achieve world-class status if you focus on these four points:
1. Conduct a talent assessment.
Leaders should have an ongoing, regular review of their employees to ensure they are continuously working to upgrade talent and remove C players from the culture. Evaluate each team member based on two core criteria:
- What percentage of the time do they live the core values?
- What is their average productivity percentage in their role?
The answers will place them into one of these categories.
- A Player: High in core values and productivity.
- B Player: High in core values and low to medium in productivity.
- C Player: Low in core values. No matter how productive they are, if they are not living the core values, they are C players.
2. Create a strengths-based performance plan by modifying your annual performance evaluation process to do the following:
- Focus on strengths instead of weaknesses. Use the process to identify strengths and passions and to determine how to better leverage those areas in the future.
- Initiate a two-way discussion versus a one-sided evaluation. Make it a forward-looking planning session instead of a backward-looking evaluation. Focus on what the employee should do differently in the future.
- Conduct quarterly performance planning sessions. Conducting these sessions will promote more of an ongoing dialogue instead of a formal annual or semi-annual evaluation.
3. Leverage employee strengths by:
- Modifying job descriptions: Most companies create standard job descriptions and expect all of their employees to fit nicely inside that mold. While there are certainly some benefits to standard job descriptions, you will find that some will tie your hands as you attempt to create a strengths-based team. This does not mean creating unique job descriptions for each individual on your team. It simply means having an open mind to modify some responsibilities to better match people’s strengths. It also means reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of your team before making hiring decisions. Recruit for talents your team is lacking, not for a well-rounded candidate.
- Give people additional training and development opportunities in the areas for which they have the most passion and the greatest strengths.
- Have people train/coach others on your team in the areas where their strengths and passions lie.
4. Spend the most time with your best people.
Managers typically spend the most time with their lowest performers, but spending more time with your strongest performers actually provides the biggest opportunity for team growth. Spending more time with your best people will help them grow from being merely strong at what they do to being extraordinary.
Your return on investment will be significantly greater by focusing your employees’ efforts on continuing to build on their talents by adding new knowledge, experience, and tools.