Temptations of Talent
Growing up, I was not very good at sports. To be transparent, “not very good” is giving myself grace. First, it was soccer. My asthmatic lungs whimpered each time the ball soared past me. Next, I tried out softball. I am convinced my hand-eye coordination gene has a permanent “out of order” sign. Then, my parents enrolled me in tennis lessons. Again, flying objects? Not a highlight of my childhood. What did I do? I quit. First, soccer then softball and finally tennis. I do not recall how I introduced the idea of quitting each time, but I clearly remember how my parents reacted. Initially, I was met with disappointment. The disappointment would merge into offers of private coaches and additional lessons. My refusal transformed into new sports pamphlets conveniently arriving on the kitchen counter.
At ten-years-old, I had to take ownership of my apparent lack of talent. I crushed my father’s dreams of proudly waving down at me as I accepted an Olympic gold medal on behalf of the United States. Looking back at this time in my life, this should have been obvious to my parents. I run at the pace of a turtle stampeding through peanut butter. I would beg to be taken to the library and was disappointed when I was brought to the playground. I was talented in a lot of areas. Athletics was not one of them. My parents overlooked the evident signs of my lack of ability with the blissful hope that I could be coached or trained to be great.
This seems like a simple concept. Do not make someone do what they are not good at. However, most organizations are built on the same blissful hope of two inaccurate assumptions:
- Each person has the ability to be competent in almost anything.
- Each person has the biggest room to grow where they are weak.
These assumptions guide why organizations spend so much time and resources training people to gain necessary skills rather than hiring and using those who already have them. Think of it this way – your organization has money set aside to send one employee to public speaking professional development training. You are trying to decide between two people – the one who naturally gives presentations well or the individual who has a challenging time conveying their thoughts publicly. Who do you send? Most people gravitate towards the person who has a weakness in public speaking. However, when it comes time to ask one of them to speak on behalf of your organization the person with natural talent is often selected.
Organizations are at their strongest when people are doing what they are good at. Through interviews with top global performers, Clifton identified that talent is innate. Through an investment of time and energy, those who are naturally talented can master or perfect their craft. With the same investment, individuals who do not possess the talent may show improvement; however, this will not be equivalent to those who already start with the innate ability.
We are often tempted to ignore our talents. We know the three areas that we struggle but overlook the ten where we naturally excel. Focusing on one’s weaknesses will prevent failure, but it will never encourage success. To be successful, you must manage your weaknesses but invest in your talents.
Managing weaknesses and focusing on weaknesses are very different tasks. Those who manage their weaknesses reach out to individuals who are skilled in areas where they are weak. You rely on your team rather than yourself when you know it is not an area you excel in.
As leaders, it can be challenging to give up control and ask for help. We often think that relying on others shows that we are lacking. However, the sign of a true leader is one who has their organization’s best interest in mind. Using self-awareness to illuminate areas where you need help is a foundational piece to being an authentic leader.
Identifying weakness takes strength. Be proud of where you are strong, and identify those who can help you where you are weak.
Thoughts to reflect on:
- What are the areas in your life where you should rely on others’ help?
- How are you investing in your talents?
- How are you encouraging those around you to invest in their talents and become the best?
Clifton Strengths perspective adapted from Now, Discover Your Strengths (2001) by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton.
Clifton Strengths for Class XI
- Responsibility – individuals who are committed to what they say they will do
- Achiever – those who work hard and take great satisfaction from being busy and productive
- Ideation – people who are fascinated by ideas
- Deliberative – those who take serious care in decision making and choices
- Arranger – individuals who can organize, but combine resources for maximum productivity
Futuristic – people who are inspired by the future and what could be
With 278,256 unique combinations of Clifton Strengths talents, Class XI is one of a kind. What does this combination of themes mean for the leaders embarking on their journey with the Wedgworth Leadership Institute? With four out of six talents in the executing domain, Class XI is exceptionally talented in making things happen. Those with talents in the executing domain work tirelessly to make an idea come to life. Paired with the remaining two strengths in the strategic thinking domain, Class XI also has the ability to think through possibilities and analyze opportunity.
For Class XI to transform their talents into strengths, it requires effort. One must be willing to intentionally invest their time, effort, and energy into their talents. Think through how you have used your talents in the past week. What tasks did you complete that came naturally to you? Did you receive a compliment on any task you have completed? What contributed to you having a great day? If any of those answers came quickly to you, perhaps it’s because you were naturally flexing your talents. As individuals in leadership roles, we must channel what makes us talented and how we can uniquely serve those around us.
Thoughts to Reflect On:
- How can you plan to invest time in your talents in the next two weeks?
- What talents, from Class XI or in general, accurately represent Florida’s agricultural and natural resources industries as a whole?
For more information regarding Clifton Strengths, please feel free to contact Megan Stein, firstname.lastname@example.org.