I recently had a conversation with a bright young woman about her deep need to realize her own potential. Her current job was a fit for her skills, talents and needs in some ways, but she felt underutilized in others and that several of the job requirements weren’t a good match. She loved the company she worked for but she believed that her immediate career path was limited because there wasn’t a clear role for her to move into. It was hard for her to see the possibilities of what didn’t yet exist. No job description, no open position, no job, right?
But the fact is that new jobs are created every day. At companies across the globe, jobs are being established as leaders implement new strategies, enter new markets, create new business models, and develop new technology. And forward thinking companies are creating new roles that are designed specifically for highly capable people, fully utilizing their talents and helping them reach new potentials.
Early in my management career, I was inspired by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s book “First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently.” In their book, Buckingham and Coffman explain how the best managers select an employee for talent rather than for skills or experience and motivate him or her by building on strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses. This leads to high performance, deep engagement, and what I like to call “rock star” employees.
This message resonated deeply with me. There was nothing I wanted more than to be a great manager and create an environment where “rock stars” could invent themselves and thrive. To do this, I had to learn more about my employees. What motivated each of them? What parts of their job did love? Hate? What were their personality styles? What caused them to step up and take on new challenges or the opposite, retreat? At what did they excel and when did they underperform? What would be the perfect role? Over the last 9 years, I have been able to train myself to see the talents of others and ask the right questions to reveal fears, desires, talents, capabilities, motivations, and weaknesses.
With this knowledge I can then either tweak or create new roles that fit their unique set of talents and better guide them as they grow in their careers. This has not only led to new opportunities within the organization, but we have happier, more engaged employees who enjoy their jobs because they get to do what they are good at every day. Engaged employees help to cultivate positive culture and it’s well known that great workplace cultures lead to higher productivity and retention. Here’s a great HBR article with a lot of data on the subject.
I am a big believer in designing roles for my employees, especially those who have high potential and demonstrate the desire to grow personally and professionally. I have seen how powerful it can be when a person who is highly capable but under performing due to a talent-job mismatch is moved into the right position. Over and over, it has made a profound impact on the company’s performance and the employee is happier because he or she is thriving, motivated, engaged, and doing tasks that are enjoyable….well on the way to rock stardom.
All of this sounds great, right? But how do you do it? How do you deeply understand your employees and position them in the right roles? Here are some of the things I do:
It takes time, commitment, and some trial and error to really get to know your employees, especially in the context of true strengths. I’ve had great success in developing employees by modifying and creating roles…but also some failures. I have become too emotionally invested in helping struggling employees find the right roles within the organization. It’s painful on both sides when it’s time to admit that there just isn’t a fit that mutually works. But the time, energy, and emotion spent is worth it. Having engaged and happy employees in roles that play off their strengths and talents makes the employee, organization, and you better. I believe there is no worthier use of my time than spending it to sincerely understand and appreciate the strengths and talents of my team, helping them to become rock stars.
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A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.