Talent… it’s not what you think

Here’s how we typically define talent…

Normally we associate talent only with celebrated excellence — with a strong emphasis on the word “celebrated.” We look at Michael Jordan, swaying and knifing his way to the basket, and we know that neither his training nor his dogged determination are the prime source of his brilliance. He may have both of these, but, then, so do most other NBA players. Alone, these cannot explain why Michael shines. Deep down we know that his secret weapon is his talent. We look at Robert De Niro and we think the same: he has talent. Tiger Woods, Jay Leno, Maya Angelou, they are all part of the talent club. They are blessed with a secret gift. For most of us, talent seems a rare and precious thing, bestowed on special, far-away people. They are different, these people with talent. They are “not us.”

How Great Managers Define Talent

And here’s how great managers define talent…

Great managers disagree with this definition of talent. It is too narrow, too specialized. Instead, they define a talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.” The emphasis here is on the word “recurring.” Your talents, they say, are the behaviors you find yourself doing often. You have a mental filter that sifts through your world, forcing you to pay attention to some stimuli, while others slip past you, unnoticed. Your instinctive ability to remember names, rather than just faces, is a talent. Your need to alphabetize your spice rack and color code your wardrobe is a talent. So is your love of crossword puzzles, or your fascination with risk, or your impatience. Any recurring patterns of behavior that can be productively applied are talents. The key to excellent performance, of course, is finding the match between your talents and your role.

How Great Managers Define Talent (Emphasis mine)

This second definition precisely explains why some of the most successful salespeople, entrepreneurs, leaders, and managers do what they do. They’re truly unique and have a knack for the things they excel at. And yes, great managers know that achieving excellence at any level is impossible without talent.

This, of course, doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance just because you don’t have the talents. Everyone does, it’s just a matter of discovering what they are and then figuring out how you use them to get to excellence. But most importantly, having the awareness that you have a mental filter that helps you navigate through your world is empowering.

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