We’ve all come across this type of person in our careers: the guy who is miserable to work with but who’s also “the top salesman we have.” Or how about “the smartest guy in the room,” who’s also the most unapproachable person you’ve ever met? The talent may well be there, but it isn’t a guarantee of success.
Sometimes, very talented people just aren’t a good fit for your organization, but more often, the problem lies in leaders’ inability to harness or align their employees’ talent to the mission. Either of these problems can cause employees’ talent to atrophy — or, worse, give them a reason to move on to a more engaging position at another company. Your job, as a leader, is to recognize when talent isn’t being used to its fullest potential and fix it.
When Talent on Its Own Isn’t Enough
As a leader, you may be tempted to hire an individual or keep him in your organization based on talent alone, but this might be a recipe for disaster. To make a difference, talented people need to be given the right roles and responsibilities, proper direction, and a sense of urgency. Most of all, they need to be properly aligned to advance an organization’s long-term goals.
Here are some common talent issues leaders face that could hinder your business’s success:
- The “lone wolf”: The lone wolf archetype makes for a great western, but in today’s hyper-connected business world, that mindset just doesn’t work. You could have the smartest guy in the industry working for you, but if he can’t interact with the rest of your team, he’s ultimately a drain on morale and productivity. A successful business requires a team of people who make use of each person’s talents through good communication and collaboration.
- Misaligned talent: Businesses can fall victim to misaligned talent for many reasons, but what I’ve seen happen, time and time again, is talent being evaluated based on short-term operational needs versus long-term business success. Perhaps you needed someone to fulfill certain responsibilities in a pinch when your business was growing, but now that person is stuck in a role where her talent is being wasted. Leaders must be able to see past pressing operational needs to the future performance of the company, which includes putting your best and brightest in leadership and strategic roles.
- Disengaged talent: If a talented employee is bored or unmotivated, she’s not going to perform to her highest potential. Getting employees out of their comfort zones, but not in panic mode, will help employees feel like they’re contributing to a greater cause and experiencing individual development. Those employees will know they are truly putting their strengths to good use and will go above and beyond for your business. However, fail to provide a challenge that fully utilizes an employee’s talent, and that talent will start to mold.
Business moves fast. Often, business leaders get caught up with other priorities and let their team’s alignment and direction fall by the wayside. Here are three simple remedies to get talent back on track:
1. Communicate: The most effective way to align a team’s talents is through honest dialogue. Take the time to evaluate internal processes and dynamics. Hearing from your team about what is — and isn’t — working will help create alignment and do more for your team’s big picture than any task management system or monetary bonus ever could.
2. Look at your business objectives: When you put talent in the context of business strategy, talent will start to naturally align itself. Leveraging the strengths and preferences of employees according to where they fit within your long-term business objectives will naturally bring out the best in your people and organization as a whole. Make sure all employees know their roles and how their actions contribute to the bigger picture.
3. Put the right people in the right seats: Jim Collins said it best when he advised that people need to be put in the right seat on the bus to drive performance. If you want to improve your team’s performance, find the right roles and responsibilities for the right employees. Find out what your employees enjoy doing and what motivates them to determine where they are best suited.
All leaders want the most talented people working for them, but talent alone can’t carry an organization. Leaders must provide oversight and direction to ensure employees are engaged, motivated, and challenged on a daily basis. Most of all, they must harness talent effectively by putting people in roles that align them — and the organization — for long-term success.