Encourage Talent If You Want It To Grow

Every so often I check the keyword searches that land people here at All Things Workplace. A lot of them have to do with “find my strengths” or “how do I manage talented people?”

People at work appear deeply invested in clarifying their own strengths and understanding the inherent talent in others. If that’s so, I was wondering why there is so much angst about “growing talent.” It seems that people are already interested and committed for the long term if their strengths and talents are being valued.

“Your Lips Say ‘Yes-Yes’ But There’s ‘No-No’ In Your Eyes”

There is at least one reason why some people–including managers–shop their resumes even in bad times.In part, it has to do with verbally advocating development and then doing the opposite.

A real life example:

Jason (not his real name) is an operations manager in one of my client companies. He’s quite experienced and has been in the manufacturing industry for 20+ years. He is also the most well-read client ever. Whenever I see him, he waxes poetically about the wonderful “new” managerial ideas he’s picked up from the most recent leadership books he’s read. And he’s read all of them.

One of those ideas had to do with recognizing someone’s small successes and following through with verbal encouragement or even a small reward (lunch, movie tickets, a $25 gift certificate. . .) Or better yet, acknowledge the person’s accomplishment during a regular departmental meeting. He even made it a point to talk about the importance of those ideas during a meeting with his supervisors.

So what’s the problem?

He wouldn’t do any of those. So, I asked him why not.

His reply: “I’m not going to spend time rewarding or telling someone how good they are if the company is already paying them a salary. They are supposed to do good work.”

What’s baffling is this: He doesn’t have the same approach with his kids. I’ve seen him at home, in action. He acknowledges them when they’ve succeeded at something. Anything. And he does it spontaneously.

Good grief:

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Every day we’re all trying to learn or do something new. Let’s be honest: part of our day is spent being a kid again when it comes to struggling with a new problem that needs a solution. And we could use a few encouraging words of recognition when we demonstrate a talent that helps the organization.

(“Gee, that felt good. I think I’ll do it again!)

What would a well-known, successful business person say about the importance of encouragement?

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”
~ Henry Ford

A Final Thought to Encourage Encouragement

The human mind abhors a vacuum. In the absence of accurate information we’ll create our own story to fill the space. Unfortunately, we humans usually create a more negative reality than actually exists. Therefore, the absence of acknowledgment and encouragement can very easily turn into the perception of a “critique.” (If my boss isn’t telling me I’m doing well then I must be doing poorly).
Find someone who is doing something well today and tell them so. You’ll be growing talent.

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Steve has designed and delivered leadership and communication programs for some of the world's largest organizations, and has more than 30 years in training, development, and high-level executive coaching. His Roesler Group has created and delivered leadership and talent development internationally for corporations such as Pfizer, Minerals Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, NordCarb Oy Ab, and Specialty Minerals--Europe. Steve is currently involved in the latest update of his Presenting With Impact program, a cross-cultural presentations workshop that has been delivered on five continents to more than 1,000 participants representing nearly 60 nationalities.


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