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Author's profile photo Jason Cao

Coach’s Corner – Turn Hidden Talents into Greater Potential

I recently rediscovered the joy of woodworking when I built a new work bench for my workshop. I truly enjoy the process of preparing, measuring, and creating something with wood, and would even call it my hidden talent.

Hidden talents are ‘hidden’ because we choose to separate (and hide) the “things we like to do” from the “things we are good at doing.” Traditionally, we refer to the things we like doing, like woodworking, gaming, or singing, as hobbies. Most of us don’t make a career of our hobbies for one reason or another, although some have. What if we could harness the passion and joy for the things we like doing in our personal lives, and translate these into skills that we get paid for having in our professional lives?

Much has been written about identifying our own hidden talents. However, connecting those hidden talents in our careers to yield professional or organizational benefits requires more effort than simply asking ourselves, “What activities bring me joy?” Here are a few suggestions on how to make these connections:

Replace professions with process and action. Call out the process and specific action you love performing instead of the profession that is typically associated with the skill. Titles and professions sometime come with biases and expectations that can blur your and others’ ability to relate a passion with your work. Instead of a woodworker or even carpenter – planning, procuring and assembling are more relate-able terms to describe your skills.

Mix and match skills to yield surprising outcomes. At the end of a very long day of organizational strategy presentations, the audience of thousands of SAP Sales colleagues was fatigued and restless. Kirsten Allegri Williams, SAP SuccessFactors Chief Marketing Officer, stood on the keynote stage wondering how her message could be memorable in such a circumstance. That’s when she decided to open her speech by singing the first few lines of an opera with her soprano voice. Not only did this make the audience sit up in their seats and pay attention, they also remembered how opera was connected to SuccessFactors. You could say the day’s event ended on a ‘high note.’ 🙂 I’m thankful to Kirsten for sharing this story with me.

Value your skills. This is actually the first step we must take once we identify our hidden talents. Regardless of the level of proficiency or how much time and money we have dedicated to our talents, we need to see the potential of these skills in order to identify the opportunities where they can be used in new and creative ways in our professional lives. It is a promise to ourselves that we will value and make use of our interests and passions.

In many ways, woodworking is very similar to coaching. Whether it is wood or it is the people I work with, I know that by applying a combination of care, knowledge and respect I can bring out the full potential and true beauty of both. There are things I can do in a short amount of time to improve the state of each, such as adding a new coat of protective oil or asking a simple check-in question. On the other hand, big transformations come from careful planning, investment and envisioning a final outcome.

Making this comparison between woodworking and coaching benefits me in both of these practices, because it helps me understand how to use one skill to support the other. For example, I am paying more attention to how woodworking skills can help me become more precise with my words as a leadership coach and learning facilitator.

In this post, I’ve focused on how hidden talents can increase individual learning and growth in our careers. What would the opportunity and potential be for a team, an organization or a community if hidden talents were unleashed on this scale?

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

Top photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash

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      Author's profile photo Maggie Ramaiah
      Maggie Ramaiah

      Thanks Jason for sharing.  I recently discovered that I can actually paint and feel like that was my hidden talent:-)

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      That is a wonderful skill to have, and such a peaceful and reflective way to spend your time. I hope to see one of your creations in the future.

      Author's profile photo Nick Kruger
      Nick Kruger

      Thanks for sharing Jason! I think an analogy that might work here is that just like in woodworking, in coaching you should measure twice and cut once. So much preparation and pre-work goes into the approach and the wrong approach could waste time, money, and effort if you need to measure and cut again.

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      That is so true Nick Kruger ! Thank you for sharing this connection between the two activities. In my post previous post, I emphasized that words matter and what we say also needs to be 'measured' the same way before cutting/speaking. It looks like when it comes to taking pride in what we do and the values we represent, many things are connected. 😉