I could turn out to be a star, if only you’d open your eyes and look at me
I’m always amazed at how business fails to make the most of human potential. ‘Being professional’, often equates to looking cool, acting smart, putting in the hours and realising when you need to be very seriously focused on the ‘biz’. The trouble with this philosophy of business life, is that it is very easy for us to see the exterior and never the inner talents of a team member or colleague.
Opportunity is the key word here. Most of us do jobs, or set up our businesses to earn a living, in areas where we see an opportunity. This is true of both a job opportunity and a business opportunity. Others, if exposed to our ‘inner’, rather than ‘on show’, talents, can see opportunities for us that can be used in our current business environment.
At one of my client’s, some weeks ago, I realised that the PA of a very high profile boss had all the ‘deal making’ skills of a top footballer’s agent. It didn’t take long to realise that she should be dealing with every price negotiation regarding public speaking/attendance at public engagements both on behalf of her boss and the other directors of the company.
The company tried this out, and the result has been a substantial increase in income in this area and a significant reduction in ‘time wasting’ engagements by the directors. How could the company have discovered what a gold mine they had under their noses? Simply by asking which of her previous jobs the PA had most enjoyed. She would have told them about the time she was employed by a PR company, assisting on corporate sponsorship negotiations.
It’s never easy to ask this type of question at the selection interview, because the candidate is intent on impressing the prospective employer the talents they have that were specified in the job advert. The answer is to find the time and right environment to ask personal, real life, questions.
For example, three months into the job an informal ‘meeting of minds’ can be arranged, with follow up every three months. This type of discussion is not a performance appraisal interview, or a 360 degree review, with all and sundry joining in, examining their navel fluff related to their existing job!
It should be as near as we can get to an off-the-record, informal conversation (over a meal/ in a pub or club) about their life. It will include questions like:
“What do you think you’re really good at doing inside and outside of work?” “If you could choose how you spend 8 hours a day, what would that something be?” “How could I help you to use these talents more?”
The point of the conversation is to find out about the individual’s potential, without the constraints of their present job or the career choices they have already made. Of course, you can do it at performance appraisal/review time, but only if the bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way.
This is really what people in people management and people development should be doing. We should be enabling people to fulfil their potential and not just the career in which they’ve landed. It makes good business sense. In fact, somebody actually asked me recently what career I would have most preferred to have. Expecting the answer “a captain of industry”, they looked stunned to find out it would have been as a cricket commentator on radio and television.
By the way, we can help you organise events that do zap your business issues head on, by allowing your people to harness their individual talents. As we said above, however, we don’t believe there is one, single ‘off-the-shelf’ process to do this.