Monday, 31 December 2007

Confidence, competence and comfort zones - the prequel

Some further thoughts on the use of talents, and particularly in relation to the role of leaders. In all walks of life, it seems to me that one of the most important role that a leader can play is to spot and develop talents. I’m not simply referring to the concept of ‘succession planning’. Rather, I’m talking about maximising the contribution that every individual makes to the endeavour. Sometimes this is easy, as talent simply emerges in the ordinary activities. At other times, close attention and careful consideration is required to spot something in the behaviour or aptitudes that an individual shows and find an appropriate way to develop it.

Of course, the initial spotting is actually the most straightforward part. The developing and nurturing is harder – finding opportunities to use the talent; providing constructive feedback to hone it; stepping aside yourself to let the other person flourish. This can be very difficult, and it can take courage and a long-term perspective to embrace this approach.

Additionally, there is an even more difficult aspect. This is when someone thinks that they are particularly gifted in an area, but you think otherwise. You have to find a way to give a clear but tough message. As a leader you should be able to find a constructive alternative (otherwise why are they part of your set-up?), but it may take a lot of time and effort for such messages to be heard.

And finally, as a leader you should be doing this for everyone in your organisation. Your efforts shouldn’t only be focussed on the most gifted individuals, but on getting the most out of everyone. Much easier to say than to do!

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