Everyone knows and talks about “job fit.” You want to find a position that is a good fit for you, and employers want to fill an open position with someone who is a good fit for the role. It is common sense, but in reality, it is not so easy to fit the right person to the right job. What should be done when the employee in a particular role partially fits it? She has several talents and skills that are a good match for the role, but there are some areas in which she is lacking. Should the employee and the manager focus on developing the employee’s weak spots, or should they accept them and develop ways around them? Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, in the book, First Break All the Rules – What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, argue that it is a waste of time to try to develop talents in an employee that he/she does not already possess.
Buckingham and Coffman use the mantra:
“People don’t change that much.
Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.
Try to draw out what was left in.
That is hard enough.”
I should also mention that Buckingham and Coffman distinguish between talents and skills; skills are the how-to’s of a role, and are capabilities that can be transferred from one person to another. Skills can and should be developed for every employee in every role. An example of a skill would be the ability to use Excel or Word. Talents, on the other hand, are described as, “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” Buckingham and Coffman assert that most people’s talents and approaches to life do not change much after age fifteen. If your employee does not have the talent of problem solving, he/she will not be able to develop it even if you throw examples, training, and incentives towards it. Although the intent is to help the person learn to problem solve, the end result will likely be a frustrated employee and time that could have been more productively spent.
What Buckingham and Coffman are saying makes a lot of sense. It is true that people don’t change much, and it is a hard task to develop and magnify the talents that people already possess. Why then am I having such a hard time letting go of the idea that it is important to try to develop and find new talents? I think I am struggling with it because it feels so limiting. The talents that I have currently are the only ones I will have for the rest of my life? That seems somewhat sad and boring to me. Just because I don’t have the talent of persuasion now means I’ll never have it? I should have tried harder and developed that talent when I worked those lemonade stands as a kid, I guess. I was actually a little mad when I read that talents and approaches to life do not change much after age fifteen. I was thinking to myself, “how ridiculous,” but after a short reflection, I realized that most of the changes between now and fifteen really are changes in my skill set versus my talents.
I’m interested to hear what other people think about this.
- Do we have potential and the ability to acquire new talents in our post-teenage lives?
- Or should we be comfortable with the talents we have and try to put ourselves in as many situations as possible that make the most of those talents?
- Do you think your manager will be accepting if you tell him/her that you just aren’t a team player and never will be because it is not one of your relating talents?
- How can or does your manager work around your “non-talents”?
- Has your role or your responsibilities ever been adapted to emphasize your talents?
- Is there more that can be done, or is the next step simply finding a different role that is a better fit?
For more information on First Break All the Rules – What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently and other great business books to read, please see the December 2015 Future Fellows article, “Beyond the Math: Recommended Reading for Actuaries.”