Talent is a question of equal distance from beginning to end: an equation of either length. When measured, it is neither long nor short.
Think about your career, going all the way back to the very beginning. Make a list of the top qualities you considered important for your development or the ones others expected from you. They can be anything: experience, expertise, or soft skills. Take a look at that list—there’s a high probability that qualities, such as hard work, attitude, or passion are included.
Now, think about what these qualities mean to you. Can you articulate them clearly to shed any ambiguity and reflect your true sense of what you expect from others? Do you live by them with the merit they deserve or demand them from others as a leader?
On the surface, this line of questioning may appear to be basic. Yet, under that simplicity lies a concept with so many dimensions. The formula comes with three distinct variables that should result in equilibrium when applied evenly.
As individuals, it shapes our attitude toward our work, capacity, and potential to learn and grow, leading to how we contribute to organizations that we join.
As leaders, it influences how we guide, nurture, and cultivate talent to execute our strategy and make our organizations’ vision a reality.
As organizations, it influences how we find, manage, and enable talent when building a workforce for the future that can give our businesses a competitive advantage.
If all three of these variables are aligned properly, the outcome is not only rewarding experiences for individuals but also tremendous success for the institutions that they serve—leading to growth and profitability.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of this concept in action.
Smart work, not just hard work
We all know that hard work is important, but we must also encourage and reward smart work as well. We are not talking about IQ or education, but rather initiative and the drive to think beyond the first step. Smart work is about asking why and how, and not just about what.
Whether we are designing, managing, or leading, we need to think five steps ahead—not one. We need to analyze five dimensions and drop none. This mindset applies to any business, any role, or any job in business or technology. It is not the first step that counts. What matters most is what lies beyond that initial step.
For example, when a business process breaks down or a technology solution is not working, knowing just what happened isn’t enough. We want to know why it happened and how we can prevent and/or improve it. Certain things may be out of our control, but we must eliminate unforced errors.
Don’t just connect the dots; find and create new ones
When we deal with new questions and challenges, we often need to look at the big picture and try to connect the dots. But, we can’t stop there. We need to also examine it with a new perspective and bend it at an angle at which we see it from a different light or reflection point.
The idea is to anticipate the next dot and to create the next opportunity. Pushing the boundaries of what was once perceived as unthinkable, we release a trigger that begins the process for the next challenge before it appears on the map.
Attitude before aptitude
Often, attitude is mistaken for blind enthusiasm that is not balanced with realistic optimism. This is not true. It is more about our state of mind that sets a tone. It says that we want to be here and are eager to engage with the problem. It says that we are ready and willing to go the extra mile.
I have never personally come across a job, project, initiative, or engagement where there was unlimited resources and time to burn. Maybe they are there, but I’ve yet to encounter one. There’s no simple blueprint for success when we account for resource constraints and competing priorities.
However, if you study successful people and how they make it happen, you‘ll quickly discover two things. First, they run with tenacity because it gives them this invisible push to drive forward despite the obstacles. Second, resilience is how they find the courage and strength to get up quickly and stronger than before when they fall.
Failure can never be a starting point, but it is inevitable. Even perfect ideas, products, and solutions are bound to fall short or fail at some point. When it happens, it is our talents’ dedication displayed by their tenacity and resilience that will make a difference.
An innovation mindset sparked by curiosity
Curiosity is a gift we’re given as a child to explore what surrounds us and risk losing as we get older. We innovate because we are not satisfied with the status quo and refuse to settle for complacency.
This mindset can be apparent in every area of the business. It’s not just reserved for designing new products and solutions that everyone wants. Innovation can also be found and pursued in the back office where roles and functions tend to be tedious and mundane.
No role, no engagement, and no project should ever be a lost opportunity for growth. Curiosity fuels a constant craving for a never-ending ambition to express human ingenuity in everything we do.
Passion before raw knowledge
This last example is closest to my heart. Passion is often confused for raw energy. Yes, energy is part of it. But, passion is the bridge that connects human emotions with a sense of purpose.
Some people go to work. Others get up each morning and work with a desire to make a difference. We don’t need to save the world to make a difference.
That self-drive and excitement to make a difference—no matter how small or large—is the reflection we see shine in our work and everything we get involved. It is an incredible gift that is contagious because it allows us to chase perfection, however elusive, as it brings us a little closer to excellence. It’s a basic notion, but a surprising number of managers and leaders miss this.
How we define these and many others will shape our talent conversations from all perspectives. The nuances will mold the corners that are integral to our unique journeys.
We seek talent and leadership first because talent matters when all else fails!
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