With resources limited and budgets tight, using every ounce of your employees’ talent is vital to your business’ success. While many entrepreneurs stress about running a lean ship, most are actually sitting on a treasure trove of untapped talent. In fact, if your team members are like the thousands of people we’ve surveyed in dozens of organizations, approximately 30 to 40 percent of talent is not being used. It’s not that employees aren’t working hard, it’s that their talent is not being optimized to its fullest potential.
So, what can you do to bring forth more talent from your team and not burn them out? Shift your approach from top-down to bubble up.
Here are three keys your team members can use to unlock their talent.
Power up your talent story. Talent is not simply your strengths or your skill set. It is your self-expression. The potential of that self-expression lives in the stories you tell — the stories you live by.
Victim stories sound something like, “I could be doing much more with my talent, BUT [we don’t have a budget, my boss won’t let me or I don’t have time].” These kinds of statements are talent killers. Instead, lead the charge at your company and be the hero of your talent story. Heroes have hopes, capitalize on opportunities to overcome obstacles, surround themselves with supporters, fully use their resources and take bold actions.
While the leader can attempt to be the one and only hero in your organization, it is best to get everyone involved and have them power up their own hero stories. Invite them to go beyond their job descriptions and engage their passions. With clear questions and generous listening, a supervisor, manager or peer can be a talent catalyst to help a team member articulate his or her hero story around the themes of their hopes, opportunities and actions.
Accelerate through obstacles. You can’t afford to let obstacles stop you or even slow you down. Instead find inspiration by using obstacles as talent accelerators.
Talent needs obstacles to realize its full potential. Whether it’s a high velocity serve in tennis, the Sunday Times crossword or a scientific conundrum like “what’s the universe made from,” it is the big challenges that demand our full attention, intelligence and dedication.
There are plenty of everyday obstacles that we can use to bring out our best and instigate a leap forward.
For example, a high-tech company manager encountered a time obstacle to implementing her hero story when her boss denied her request for a few hours per week to pursue some innovative ideas. Instead of abandoning the initiative, she designed a template that she and some team volunteers could execute by dedicating only 15 minutes each day. It turned out to be a better solution that created faster results and broader buy-in with her team.
Multiply the payoffs for yourself and others. It’s not enough to express your talent. In order to have a lasting impact, you need to focus your daily actions and ideas on creating tangible career and organizational assets. This notion may be so natural for entrepreneurs that they don’t realize it is a blind spot for other members of the team.
For instance, an aspiring supervisor found herself blocked from supervisory roles, because she didn’t have the experience of giving performance feedback. She was about to give up hope, when she shifted her focus from what she could do about it to what she could create concretely with her talent and benefit the company. The result was a document of guidelines for first-time supervisors on how to give performance feedback. She showed concretely what she had learned from the best practices of others as well as her own experience in both mock situations and project settings. As a result, she landed a supervisory job and provided a valuable, tangible asset to the organization for other first-time supervisors to use.
When you engage your employees’ self-motivation and invite talent to bubble up in your organization, everyone benefits.
By Don Maruska and Jay Perry