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Talents - use it or lose it

“A well-managed talent becomes a strength. A mismanaged talent becomes a detriment.”

Once you understand the natural energy and need to be connected to your talents, you have the duty and the challenge to manage that specific energy and need well. If you do, your energy and your need to create sustainable fuel for you to reach new levels every day. If you don't, that very same energy and need can become the detriment and boulder on your way towards performance and satisfaction.

This is exactly why people see some of their strongest energy - mismanaged - as a weakness, like being too perfectionistic, procrastination, too driven, too soft-hearted, dreaming too big or making decisions too fast. It is not a weakness; it is mismanaged energy that causes a detriment. And you CAN manage your natural talents well if you know how to control the energy and the need.



The Talent Formula


There is a simple formula towards the development of talents into strengths:


TALENT (ENERGY & NEED) + KNOWLEDGE (WHAT YOU KNOW) + SKILL (ABILITIES) + EXPERIENCE (TIME) = STRENGTH.

Talent alone is mere potential. In order to use your talent well, you need to develop it. And developing talent is done in practice - by using it.

The energy provided by your talent brings with it the benefit of sustainability. It is the one form of energy that actually increases as you use it – you end stronger than when you started.

All too many people rely on their abilities alone. Without the fuel of talent, the drive it provides within your patterns of thought, emotions and behaviour, and it aligning well with the activities you choose to engage it, your performance will run out of steam.


This is also why talent and personality assessments alone seldom have a lasting impact on performance. It provides insight and awareness, but has little lasting influence. Developing your talents into strengths means turning potential into real performance and impact- and this is the starting point of a Strengths-based journey in life.

“Knowledge”

Knowledge is an essential building block of talent. You need to know the specific talent (have the awareness), but then, you need to acquire knowledge in the specific area where the relevant talent(s) provide energy and need. Often knowledge is directed towards "passion" or "interest", and that is correct. But once you understand your specific talent needs and energy, you can become much more specific within the knowledge you acquire for the talent to become a strength. Obtaining knowledge is an active process. It can be formal, like studies, or informal, like reading. But knowledge will mostly not come your way if you do not actively engage in seeking for it and acquiring it through effort and intention.

“Skill”

Knowledge is an essential building block of talent. You need to know the specific talent (have the awareness), but then, you need to acquire knowledge in the specific area where the relevant talent(s) provide energy and need. Often knowledge is directed towards "passion" or "interest", and that is correct. But once you understand your specific talent needs and energy, you can become much more specific within the knowledge you acquire for the talent to become a strength. Obtaining knowledge is an active process. It can be formal, like studies, or informal, like reading. But knowledge will mostly not come your way if you do not actively engage in seeking it and acquiring it through effort and intention.


“The bottom line on skills is this: A skill is designed to make the secrets of the best easily transferable. If you learn a skill, it will help you get a little better, but it will not cover for a lack of talent. Instead, as you build your strengths, skills will actually prove most valuable when they are combined with genuine talent.”- Donald O. Clifton

Talent, just like skill, must be practised. It is a matter of "use it or lose it". You need to become, and to stay "talent fit." The more experience you have within your “talentedness”, the stronger you will play and the more value you will add to whatever you do. Experience means most when it is gained very specific and focused. If experience is not aligned with talent, it is mostly only wasted time.


Talent, just like skill, must be practised. It is a matter of "use it or lose it". You need to become, and to stay "talent fit." The more experience you have within your “talentedness”, the stronger you will play and the more value you will add to whatever you do. Experience means most when it is gained very specific and focused. If experience is not aligned with talent, it is mostly only wasted time.


All too often do I encounter people who believe that talent will develop and grow simply as the body does. It probably will, but if not exercised, fed and developed with intention, your talent potential will not be reached. A body also needs to be fed and needs exercise for optimal growth. No matter what industry, field or discipline: if you study people who are successful and fulfilled, and recognized as being so, they will be able to share with you a life story of intentional talent development - aligned with the acquisition of knowledge, skill and experience.

There is a very specific currency that we need to invest when it comes to talent development. The currency is “time”.


Time is the only measurable element we cannot get back, once we have used it. That is also the reason time is so precious. Talent development is directly and proportionally in line with the time you spend to develop it. You cannot separate the experience from time.


Many individuals and companies are not willing to make the investment of time within talent development. The result is that they can only rely on the knowledge, skill and experience people bring - and all too often the energy lacks, and the needs of individuals are not fulfilled. Disengagement follows. Be willing to invest time in talent development. The return on this investment - if done intentionally and accurately - will be beyond belief.

At times I am frustrated by leaders or managers of companies who are willing to invest vast amounts of money for the development of their employees and the teams but actively resists the time being asked to spend with these employees or teams. It is as if some of them think that there is some magic formula in expensive programs or assessments that will change the performance of employees or the dynamics of teams.


For this reason, I am mostly quite open and transparent with my response to this. I tell leaders and managers directly that I do not do “team-building” as a quick fix. I do at times incorporate team building activities within a broader process for a very specific learning experience, but, I cannot magically change a dysfunctional team or under-performing employee with a quick weekend away or a three-hour session of information dumping.

If you want to get to a destination, you have to spend time on the journey to get there. The “beam me up, Scotty” technology from Star Trek has not yet been invented in personal- or team development.


(screw-propelled vehicle, hovercraft),  aircraft (aeroplanes, helicopters) and spacecraft…to name just some. You get so many that I can assure you none of us have ever seen all the different vehicles on the planet.


“Strength”

Strength is were talent, knowledge, skill and experience are all being applied with intention.

(screw-propelled vehicle, hovercraft),  aircraft (aeroplanes, helicopters) and spacecraft…to name just some. You get so many that I can assure you none of us has ever seen all the different vehicles on the planet.s), watercraft (ships, boats), amphibious vehicles

(screw-propelled vehicle, hovercraft),  aircraft (airplanes, helicopters) and spacecraft…to name just some. You get so many that I can assure you none of us have ever seen all the different vehicles on the planet.


Thinking of the various vehicles, we can then say that, as a metaphor:

is the vehicle itself – with a specific make, model, brand, colour and specifications. Many are similar, but you can have differences even in similarity (same brand, different engine; same model different colour; same shape different brand, etc.)


Talent is then is using the vehicle for its full purpose – having fun with it, using it for short or long-distance travel, fast or slow, on- or off-road, business or pleasure, transportation, on wheels or on tracks or rails…. same shape different brand, etc.)


Knowledge is knowing how the vehicle basically works, what it is designed for, what it needs to be used to purpose and where and how it will work best, and where not (rather not drop your kids at school in a tank).


Skill is the actual ability to drive the vehicle.


Experience is what you gain through driving it often, and testing its performance and limits.


Strength then, is using the vehicle for its full purpose – having fun with it, using it for short or long distance travel, fast or slow, on- or off- road, business or pleasure, transportation, on wheels or on tracks or rails….


The combination of the talent, the knowledge, the skill and the experience when used for a specific purpose, in the right context and conditions, and to its full design purpose for your specific need.


(PS – ever is what you gain through driving it often and testing its performance and limits.eries? Ever been stuck in traffic in a fast sports car? Now you get how talents can be applied within context, even in situations where you address a need or adapt according to the circumstance. Not ideal, but do-able. We call that type of use a “weakness”.


For more on this and other related subjects, go check out my new book, "Launch your Brilliance"


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Pretoria, South Africa