According to McKinsey (link at the end), in medium complexity work, talented people are 85 % more productive.
Even in the basic work, talent means about 50 % higher productivity. And, what is really scary, is that in very complex environments talented people can be 800 % more productive. But, what is talent? Can talent be developed? Can talent be created? You have heard, that mastering something takes 10 000 hours / repetitions. From talent point of view, that luckily is a misunderstanding. After that 10 000 repetitions one has built a synapses path in brain, which leads behaviour no matter what happens. But talent is not the same!
A very good description of talent in contemporary world is given by Angela Duckworth ““Talent—when I use the word, I mean it as the rate at which you get better with effort. The rate at which you get better at soccer is your soccer talent. The rate at which you get better at math is your math talent. You know, given that you are putting forth a certain amount of effort. And I absolutely believe—and not everyone does, but I think most people do—that there are differences in talent among us: that we are not all equally talented” (Duckworth, 2016). And this has a very important message to your business. You need to help your people to know their talent and then to develop them. Some might now think, that “OK, that person is not talented in sales, so he/she is doomed for good”. That is not correct! They are not good in sales, in the way they are using their talent. They actually are not using their talent in the right way. This is the same in most professions. We can get to the same successful results through multiple venues! When we know how to use our talent the right way!
Developing talent needs two things; first you must commit to the work and then you need to find what your talent really is. The point where so many people get lost is how we perceive talent. We are told that “in our family no one is good at” or “you failed because you don’t have the talent”. And we take it for granted. On the other hand, would you have said that these people have no talent; Stephen Hawking (life in wheelchair), Ludwig van Beethoven (deaf), Stevie Wonder (blind)? I wouldn’t. Yes, they all had their limitations, but so do we all! Once we learn what our true talent is, then we can develop it!
Creating talent sounds a bit strange. How can you create a talent? Isn’t it something that we are born with? Talent is the outcome of identifying an opportunity and working to make it better. You know ice hockey players, they live in, on and for ice hockey. Yet, most of them are really good in tennis, squash, badminton. They all might have become a great athlete in some other sport. As we understand what our talent is, then we can start to use it in the environment we want to. Creating talent is about adapting what we in to the environment we feel passionate about.
Why is this so important to leaders? More than ever? The importance stands on 3 legs; 1. there is an increasing battle of talent in the world, 2. talent is what takes ideas to successful business innovations and 3. talented people are so much more productive. As the battle of talent is increasing, the most cost effective way to get new talent is to find and nurture those within the organisation. Salary, compensations are only on place 4 on the list what people want from their job. The number one is great leadership. At the same time people are more and more looking for jobs, which give them mental rewards. The point is nowadays not about should you identify and nurture, but can you afford not to?
Every business is about making profit. That is the purpose and soul of every business. Those who can be more productive than their competition, are the ones who make the profit. Today productivity is not about who works harder. It is about who works smarter. Finding new solutions and approaches is what talented people do. They are interested and willing to look at their work and processes in order to see how they can be improved. They get their mental rewards (which always outruns the financial in 3 months) from finding solution and getting positive feedback on that.
This positive feedback is what you as a leader need to value and understand. It is not about getting a golden watch after 30 years of service. It is really about getting feedback on monthly base. It is about the culture of the organisation. Can people make mistakes? Are mistakes punished or seen as lessons to be learnt? Is the message the same in corporate manual and in the coffee room?
If you fail in creating and nurturing talent, you make your productivity equation fail. If you fail in leadership side, you get the same poor results. It really is about the leadership culture in the organisation, which allows talent to be productive. Yes, there is strong evidence, that this is often achieved in coaching style leadership. But, it can be achieved in other styles too, as long as you build your leadership on one core value; you respect and appreciate each and every individual. Because they have talent, even it is not the kind of talent you have
Your partner in making success happen, Kari I. Mattila, emotional intelligence advisor