June 22, 2010
Last week I gave a talk at the AMD Women’s Forum about Professional Destiny in Business and igniting passion in the workplace. How is this done–especially in larger organizations? The answer is that great productivity and passion at work always starts with people. Always. It begins with identifying your gifts. And if you’re a leader, it also begins with identifying the gifts of others and putting them to good use.
In the first installments of this “Homogenization” series, I’ve written about the problems of marginalizing vs. empowering people and the difference between “spiky” and well-rounded skills. Let’s go a step further and discuss why matching people to their unique talents is so important.
Studies have shown that up to 80% of workers feel that they are not being allowed to use their strengths on a daily basis at work. Why is that? In my experience, I’ve found that there are usually three main reasons:
- Many employees are not aware of their natural gifts or strengths. They are not clear on what sets them apart from others and consequently they are unaware of the types of work that fits them best.
- Organizations don’t pay enough attention to the difference between natural gifts and acquired skills and experience. They pay too much attention to credentials (resumes and fancy degrees), which are a good indicator of intelligence, but not a great indicator of a natural gift (such as seeing new opportunities or building customer trust).
- Many leaders do not have the insight or inclination to identify and match people with their greatest strengths. This is especially true if the strength is not immediately identified as part of the established job description.
In Professional Destiny, I give an example of a helpful exercise to help you identify your gifts. It involves getting crystal clear on the things you love to do, the things you’re naturally good at (sometimes these are the same, sometimes they’re not) and the things you loathe to do, and should avoid altogether. Once you’re clear, initiate conversations with manager and see how you can maximize your time doing what you do best. If you’re a leader, do this exercise with your team.
In essence, many managers homogenize remarkable people because they fundamentally believe that employees are interchangeable parts. They believe that skills and credentials are more important than natural gifts and that with the right training or attitude almost any person can be adapted to any position. The mistake in this logic is that it leaves out the passion factor and employees eventually begin to disengage. Their attitude can change to the “I’m just doing my job” factor. When people are passionate about their work, they are more loyal, innovative and driven to achieve remarkable things. Companies sometimes forget that it’s the people who first and foremost determine whether an organization is great or not. Not the other way around.