Intelligence and talent just aren’t enough
I can just about accept that I didn’t get where I am today on looks and charm. But the other day, I found out that when it comes to realising one’s potential, intelligence and talent aren’t enough, either.
I tuned into the latest webinar in SuccessFactors’ series of 20 Minute Master Classes which promised to reveal the secret HR leaders can learn from the sporting elite. I suspected it was going to be all “positive mental attitude” and whatnot, but actually, the most important point was this: the capacity to learn is a greater determinant of long-term success than knowledge or experience.
For an employee to reach their full potential, they need three basic ingredients: ability, personal resilience (being able to handle risk, pressure, criticism and disappointment) and a learning mindset.
Those that resist learning tend to be experts in their own little sphere, but because they aren’t used to stretching themselves, they don’t readily adapt to new tasks and responsibilities. As a result, they miss out on the personal and professional development needed to gain promotion, so they either sit in the same job for years, or leave the company and reproduce their skills and strengths for another employer. And that could well be a competitor.
Apparently, it’s often the most able people who are the least likely to expose themselves to risk of failure – a case of pride coming before performance. Wanting to do the best job you can is healthy, but being wounded by criticism or taking self-image too seriously to allow yourself to make mistakes is pretty limiting for both the individual and the company.
There was a particularly good slide in the webinar that showed how you can cultivate a learning mindset – not only among this subset of intractable employees but the entire workforce – with a simple but effective framework. You can view the presentation, together with an infographic, here. But essentially, it’s all about creating the right environment for people to do four things: embrace challenges, seek feedback, evaluate changes and practice their newly-acquired skills.
Sounds easy. But the simplest things can be the hardest to master when you’ve had a lifetime to reinforce certain habits, beliefs and perceptions. I’m all too aware, because the webinar presenter asked us to think of a recent situation, event or task and apply it to the learning mindset framework. My sister longs to book a cruise for our summer holiday but the fact that to this day, I’ve never learned to swim, means it’s a moot point in our household. Perhaps it’s time I ventured out of my comfort zone and jumped in at the deep end…