Succeeding as an Introvert in a Noisy World of Extroverts

9002759287_c7904c055e_nUnless people know something about you and how you work, introversion can be read as lack of interest or even lack of ability. Introverts can take charge of their talent and convey their value in powerful ways. Here’s how.

1. Be a breath of fresh air with a clear brand that differentiates you. Articulate a concrete promise that sets you apart from others (especially the extroverts). Let people know what’s special about you and your approach. For example, “In the midst of chaos, I quietly deliver superior results that fulfill key objectives.”

2. Provide proof points that demonstrate your value. Develop tangible assets that support your promise. For example, “After a long and contentious team meeting, I offered to take the ideas presented and outline a path forward. I developed a template that everyone could use and a sample of how it works. Now, instead of arguing how to do these projects, we all have a tool that works.”

3. Inoculate your boss and others so that they don’t get infected by how others work and leave you in the dust. Tell people about your intentions and how you work so that they don’t make inaccurate assumptions. You need to ask for the conditions that will enable you to succeed. Interestingly, these conditions will also improve even the extroverts’ thinking and result in fewer people shooting from the hip and missing the target. For example, “I want to contribute to the team’s success. What enables me to contribute most effectively is an opportunity to reflect on ideas and offer my suggestions. When we plan to meet about something, would you please share the topics and questions beforehand? And, where appropriate, may I request an opportunity to sit with the suggestions and come back in a timely way with some responses?”

Introverts have much to offer. Don’t wait for others to ask you. You can take charge to create the conditions in which you will thrive.

Photo by: rs snaps

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Posted in Overcoming Obstacles

How Far Can You Stretch?

292969085_ab379b72f4_zIn “Take Charge of Your Talent,” we advocate making healthy stretches as an approach to getting the most from our talent.  A healthy stretch can be exhilarating and leave us feeling as though anything is possible.

Unfortunately, few of us make healthy stretches on a daily or even weekly basis. Most of us have some kind of fixed idea of how far we can stretch before we will encounter resistance or pain (psychological or physical). Thus, we make a good effort and then stop. We opt for the comfort of what we know, rather than explore what else is possible.

The following exercise gives a physical expression of what we mean by a healthy stretch of your talent.

  1.  From a set standing position, extend your right arm straight out parallel to the ground and point your index finger forward.
  2. Next, rotate your body to the right as far as is comfortable.  (If you use your left arm and finger, rotate to the left) Your pointing finger will be describing an arc of a circle.  When you stop turning, notice what you are pointing at.
  3. Return to your starting position and repeat the process.  Notice if you are making a longer arc and find yourself pointing at something just a bit farther behind you.
  4. Try this several times until you are no longer pointing at something new.

Did you notice how you could comfortably reach further and further as you made additional tries?

Sometimes the only thing preventing us from stretching a bit farther is the limit of our own thinking.

So let’s move from the physical exercise to one that focuses on you and your hopes for your talent.

  1.  What action can you take to day that would move you closer to realizing your hopes?
  2. If you were to stretch a bit further in that direction, what would it look like?
  3. If you were to stretch even further in that direction, what would it look like?
  4. If you were to go beyond even that, what would it look like?

As in the physical practice, making successive tries will lengthen your stretch and expand what you discover is possible.

Photo by: Gianluca Carnicella

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Posted in Talent Exercises

“Talent Wanted: Dead … or Alive!”

Kevin was taught to create a detailed plan for his team and then work the plan. However, what looked good on a spreadsheet – a team that ran like a finely tuned Swiss watch — quickly began to break down. Now, Kevin was a smart manager. When productivity was sluggish, he greased the wheels with fresh incentives.  When a consultant made recommendations for new efficiencies, he tightened the reins. But when he began to lose valuable team members who sought more fluid, dynamic, and creative opportunities elsewhere, Kevin knew he needed a new approach.

4948070255_338e65de13_bThere are many managers caught in the same trap as Kevin. You probably know some who approach their organizational design mechanistically. They think of people in their firms like boxes in an organization chart. They want to align all of the parts and drive results from the top down. With such an inert view, is it any wonder that Gallup polls report employee engagement scores in the U.S. hover around a miserable 30 percent? There’s a lot that doesn’t fit in a box.

You can see the problem. Talent is not dead. It is not inanimate. It does not thrive in a mechanical environment.

Kevin needed to embrace his team as an organism. After all, the words organism and organization share the same root. When Kevin was able to see his team as a living, breathing, learning, adapting, growing organism, he started to manage differently. He saw problems not as breakdowns, but as opportunities to grow, to encourage people to take charge of their talent, and find ways to embrace and engage the diversity of skills, interests, and passions in his team.  He let go of the need to funnel people and projects through his design. Instead, he worked with them to gain shared understandings of what they hoped to accomplish and together they laid out clear objectives and opportunities for team members to bring their hopes and talent to the endeavor. Now, Kevin sleeps better, his team members enjoy pulling together, and the business grows profitably.

Kevin was able to make a shift in his mindset, and he, his team, and his firm benefitted. He moved from a mechanistic mindset to an organic one. He no longer wants talent “Dead or Alive.” Now he engages it to be fully and dynamically alive.

Take some time to listen to how you and others in your firm talk. Observe the way you and others approach problem solving. Try to feel the pulse of the team. Are you stuck in a dead mechanism or is your firm a live organism? Make the shift and enjoy the results.

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Posted in Resolutions

How Bold Are You Willing to Be to Get What You Want?

don and jay question blog*** If you’ve ever wanted something and didn’t know how to get it, you need to read this blog. ***

In Take Charge of Your Talent we underscore the importance of being able to make effective requests if we are going to make the most of our resources. 

We suggest a basic four-step request template:

Express your intention.  State clearly what you hope to accomplish and why it is of value.

Provide a clarifying observation.  Describe what you see that sets up the context for your request.

Make a request.  Make a simple, concrete, direct statement of what you want. 

Close with a confirmation. Restate and confirm whatever you have agreed upon.

 Making a request at any level can activate new opportunities.  But here’s a question for you to entertain:  How bold are you willing to be with your requests?

 The hero in our true-life story (we’ll call him Phillip) showed up to a Talent Catalyst Conversation with a victim story full of reasons why he wasn’t able to fully use his talent.  He was passionate as he expressed his hope to contribute in a meaningful way to a group of his peers in recovery.  He had so much going for him: a full range of self-expression, his personal experience, a deep understanding of his audience, and a tremendous resource of people who were ready to support him.  What he discovered was missing was a request that would activate those resources.

 So we spoke about the request he wanted to make.  His initial responses were positive and fairly modest.  He wanted to ask a leader in the recovery world for his support.  We spoke about what it might sound like if he made a bold request: the things he truly wanted without any consideration about whether it would be accepted or not.  He decided he wanted to ask for a two-year contract to work with this leader’sorganization to develop innovative approaches in the field.  He also decided he wanted to be paid 6 figures a year.

 Phillip called me the next day and asked, “Are you sitting down?  I went into the meeting and told this leader that my intention was to impact several million people in recovery by creating unique tools that the audience could use anywhere and anytime. Then I observed that this could make a significant contribution to his mission and his bottom line.  Finally I made a bold request.  But I didn’t just ask for that financial figure we spoke about yesterday.  I asked for three times that much.  And you know what he said…‘Do you want to be paid weekly or monthly?’” 

 “And did you confirm what the agreement was?”

 “Yes indeed.  The first check is due on the first of the month.”

 So what about you?  Is the only thing standing between you and the realization of your deepest hopes a bold request?

 Photo by: Stefan Baudy



Posted in Uncategorized

Your Talent and Mindfulness

4574918002_7fe107a8bf_mWhat does mindfulness have to do with your talent?

Mindfulness is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days.  It’s often associated with Buddhist practices and meditation: activities that are designed to develop our abilities to be present and in the moment.

Ellen Langer, Harvard professor of Social Psychology has a much more direct approach to mindfulness.  She describes it as the “simple act of actively noticing things.”

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness.  We are mindless when, instead of actively noticing things, we rely solely on our learning, associations, and assumptions from the past.

We are often mindless with our talent.  We “know” what we’re good at and what we’re not good at.  We’ve found our strengths; know our DISC profile, and our enneagram number.  At one time these distinctions were fresh and perhaps opened up new possibilities for our talent, but quickly they fade into labels that we and, what’s worse, others use to label us – to contain our talent, not to free it.

At its best a Talent Catalyst Conversation is an exercise in mindfulness.  When a Talent Catalyst actively notices the language and emotions of a Talent Hero, that recognition can spark new possibilities.  When a Talent Hero creates a fresh story by actively noticing what answers occur to questions like “What are your hopes,” new life chapters begin to be written.

Labels can be useful ways to categorize past behaviors and tendencies, but to Take Charge of Your Talent – your self-expression – a little mindfulness goes a long way.

To learn more about Ellen Langer and her approach to mindfulness see:

Photo by: clogsilk




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Posted in Talent Exercises

Graduates — It’s your time to take charge!

4608963722_7c88e503f8_bCongratulations to the millions of Americans graduating from high schools, technical institutes, community colleges, universities, and graduate schools! This is your moment to shine and take pride in your achievements.

This also may be a time when you have a rush of mixed emotions — exhilaration, eagerness, uneasiness, and perhaps worry. All of these feelings come with taking the next steps in your career.

We want you to enjoy your career journey. Indeed, if you think of your career as a story, you will be writing many chapters. We’re committed to helping you be the hero of your talent story. So, we’ve provided some special resources and support just for you.

First, here’s a selection of blog posts that will stimulate your thinking and help you pursue your next steps with greater confidence.

Why Should an Employer Choose You? Many job applicants make a big mistake in their interviews. They make the job interview about themselves rather than about the job.

Make Yourself the Hero of Your Talent Story The hero story can belong to all of us, not just a chosen few. It doesn’t matter what your story is or what your circumstances are.

What makes you come alive? Start making the most of your talent by identifying what makes you come alive. Trying to fit into someone else’s mold won’t work.

Your Brain is a Ferrari The best race car drivers, driving Ferraris, couldn’t go very fast if they were to find themselves stuck on the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour on Friday afternoon. The same principle applies to you.

The World Belongs to the Talented and That Means You Talent isn’t hierarchical. Everyone has talent and anyone, anytime, anywhere can use proven keys to unlock his or her talent and the talent of others regardless of their position.

Small Actions; Big Results The Daily Action Pack is a group of small actions that you take each day (at least 5 days per week) that, over time: give you a near certainty of realizing your hope.
Second, if you add a comment to this post or any of the blog posts listed above by June 30, 2014, we’ll enter you into a drawing for one of two Talent Catalyst Conversations that we will provide free of charge. As described in the book, “Take Charge of Your Talent,” a Talent Catalyst Conversation is a great way in less than hour to articulate your hopes, identify resources and opportunities to fulfill them, and sketch out actions you can take to get started. This will become the start of your hero’s story.


Don and Jay

Photo by: John Walker

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Posted in Support

Are you afraid of your hopes?

I was.


When my friend and spiritual director Art Stevens asked me the question, “What are your hopes?”, it stopped me in my tracks. No one in the 46 years of my life before that time had ever asked me about my hopes. Discussions with teachers, prospective employers, and colleagues typically focused on what job I wanted, where did I expect to be in the next three to five years, or what others with my training and experience accomplished. I remember saying something lame but acceptable as I might in a job interview, “I want to be leading a growing organization that’s helping to improve people’s lives.”

Art’s loving and piercing blue eyes didn’t let me wiggle off that easily, however. He asked, “Why is that important to you?” Aw, come on, I thought. He’s serious. Since I had worked hard to become the CEO of Silicon Valley company and felt very invested in the career path of what a Stanford MBA/JD “should” be doing, I didn’t want to be rocking my boat. Yet, there was something about Art’s questions that stuck with me. What were my hopes, not someone else’s expectations of me, but my hopes, my aspirations, my unique calling?

What was great about how Art asked these questions was his unconditional love regardless of the answers I offered. He didn’t judge my responses or explicitly or implicitly push me to say more, do more, or be more than I was willing to offer. As a result, I could live with the questions rather than try to defend my current perspectives and commitments. I could be open to whether there might be a better, more rewarding path for myself and my family and explore the possibilities.

These questions helped me look more deeply into myself and tap the wellsprings of my own aspirations and motivation. They helped free me from the seductive sirens of Silicon Valley that called me in directions that were not mine. They gave me and my family something solid that we could discuss and build upon to find fulfillment together.

It’s this experience, this freedom, that we want you to have for yourself, your work, and your family. That’s why the Talent Catalyst Conversation beings with the core questions of “What are your hopes for your talent?” and “Why are they important to you?” It’s also why we invite your Talent Catalyst to be a generous listener for you. A generous listener holds forth your deepest hopes and reflects what you say without having an “agenda” for you. A generous listener has a spirit of unconditional love for you that encourages expression of your unique abilities.

We’ve learned through decades of coaching and the latest neuroscience and psychology that when people are in a hopeful frame of mind, they do their best and more effective thinking. So, while exploring your hopes may feel risky, it’s a proven path to freedom and fulfillment. Find a Talent Catalyst and enjoy the journey!

Don Maruska

 Photo by: Darren Tunnicliff



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Posted in Personal Stories

What makes you come alive?

Start making the most of your talent by identifying what makes you come alive. Trying to fit into someone else’s mold won’t work. So, consider this quote.

don and jay harold whitman

Take a few minutes to jot down and share with someone what makes you come alive. Is it using a particular skill or expertise? Is it working with others to accomplish something? Is it learning something new and looking for ways to grow? Create a list that will help you articulate your hopes for having your talent come alive. Then, others can help you find the needs and opportunities where you can express and fulfill your talent uniquely and powerfully to benefit yourself and the world.



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Posted in Talent in the Workplace

What Is the Message of Your Life?

photoHave you seen the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Washington, D.C.? It is a moving image of the gaunt Gandhi walking forward determinedly with a staff in his hand.  The most compelling part of the statue is the quote from him that appears on the base: “My life is my message.” That short statement speaks volumes not only about Gandhi but also to each of us.

Gandhi’s simple life of determined, non-violence created a movement that brought Britain to grant independence to India. His life—how he lived and what he said–expressed his message with integrity. Long before Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement–“The medium is the message.”—Gandhi’s life was the medium of his message.

What is the message of our lives? This question invites soul searching. What does the way I’m living my life convey about my message? What would others infer that I really value from what they can see of my actions? Are these in alignment with who I am and how I want to be?

We invite you to take a few minutes to check your life message. Write down your habits and behaviors both in words and actions. What message do they convey? Then, ask family members or friends who know you to write down the messages they think your life expresses. Are the messages in alignment with your hopes for your life? How might you change what you are doing to bring how you are living more closely in tune with what you truly wish to express?

As Gandhi’s life demonstrates, our strength and our fulfillment lies not in the wealth or power of the positions we hold but in the messages we send from how we live our lives. Your family, friends, coworkers, and communities are listening for your message.

Posted in Personal Stories

3 Types of Reflective Listening that Can Transform Your Relationships

5961100771_9cb408c6c6_bEffective listening will dramatically enhance your relationships in all areas of your life. We train people in the art and science of generous listening to be Talent Catalysts in powerful Talent Catalyst Conversations. You can use these same Talent Catalyst skills in every aspect of your life.

Typical interactions fall short because our listening becomes routine and full of assumptions. We think we know what people are saying. We may even assume that we know what they will say.

Generous, reflective listening transforms relationships to be more engaging and rewarding. It gets beyond the assumptions and superficial exchanges to deeper truths.

You can transform your relationships by using three types of reflective listening.

  • Reflect the words. Simply repeat or paraphrase the words the other person said. This may sound awfully basic, but you will be surprised at how beautifully it gives a person the chance to clarify his or her own thoughts.
  • Reflect the feeling. Let the speaker know what emotion you hear in his or her voice. For example, “It sounds like you may be feeling some frustration with that.”
  • Reflect hopes or needs. Explore what the person’s deeper hopes or aspirations may be. For example, “Sounds like you need to know you’ve done your best.”

How can these reflections transform your relationships?

The quality of your relationships has a direct correlation to how much people think they matter when they’re with you. When you take the time to reflect meaning, feelings, and hopes, people know that they matter and often become more open to exploring fresh ways of looking at important issues.

Habitual ways of listening become familiar ruts. It may take a bit of effort to become an effective generous listener. Are your relationships worth it?

 Photo by: Bindaas Madhavi


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Posted in Talent Exercises features “3 Keys to Unlocking Employee Talent”
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