If you create opportunities for employees to take charge of their talent, how will they respond? Will they embrace the opportunities? Will their participation lead to benefits for them and for the organization? Some leaders and organizations assume that only highly motivated, “high potential” employees will want to take charge of their talent. Is that so? This blog shares what we’ve learned about the answers to these questions.
The Desire Is Strong
Our surveys of thousands of employees in dozens of well-run organizations confirm that typically even high performers have 30 to 40% of their talent untapped. It’s not that they aren’t working hard. It’s that they have much more that they could be contributing but they haven’t figured out how. However, do they want to figure out how? Again, our surveys show a strong correlation between use of talent and job satisfaction. Interviews exploring this correlation confirm that employees experience using more of their talent as a path to greater satisfaction.
What’s Needed for Employees to Take Charge?
Ah, here’s the critical challenge. Unlocking untapped talent requires a combination of factors. First and foremost, employees need to overcome their belief that they can’t change their situations. Some believe that it’s not possible or the cost will be too high. We hear comments like: “My boss won’t let me.” “We don’t have a budget to support my interests.” “It would require too much of a tradeoff with my other interests and personal time.” As you can see, such persons feel like victims of their circumstances. Indeed, being a victim can be comforting – “It’s out of my control.” They are off the hook for responding.
While the circumstances and limitations that employees face may be real, they can choose to respond differently. But, how? Their ways of thinking about their situations need to change so that they can move from victims of their circumstances to heroes of their talent in action. They need a carefully structured process and a catalyst to spark fresh perspectives and stimulate creative solutions.
What we’ve found works well is a structured set of questions – a Talent Catalyst Conversation — that invites people to engage their hopes about their careers as the engines of self-motivation. Their hopes energize them to explore the obstacles and find the resources within and around themselves to accelerate through the obstacles and blaze new paths. While the structured questions don’t require the persons asking them to have extensive training, such Talent Catalysts need to be committed partners in the discussion. A valuable component is generous listening. This is the willingness to hear and reflect back to the person becoming the hero the gist of what he or she said and supporting the person’s hopes.
The Talent Catalyst also needs to give the hero in progress the freedom to be in charge. This means not superimposing directions. Rather, it’s offering perspectives as requested and keeping the hero in charge of his or her choices and results.
Will People Do the Work and Get Results?
If employees choose to participate and have the support of other employees as Talent Catalysts, the transformation from victim to hero and getting results can occur quickly. For example, Fran, a staff member who wanted to become a supervisor, found a way to target the expertise she needed and created a valuable guide for first-time supervisors in the process. Steve, who led an IT group but felt conflicted about other career paths, gained clarity to commit fully to his leadership role and expand his value to his software company.
Would you like to take charge of your talent and see what’s possible? The perfect moment to explore the possibilities and enjoy the results is now.