Employees are critical to the success of most businesses. They are the profit makers of any company, without whom delivering products and services to customers would be impossible. Savvy managers understand that success is dependent upon teamwork. But are you sure that you’re making the most of the talents your team members have?
Each individual is unique and has her own set of experiences and strengths formed throughout of her life. So, while you may have hired someone to ran operations, that person is going to have talents outside of the function she performs. Are you even aware of what those other talents are? And have you considered how you can tap into them?
It’s more than likely that you’re sitting on a treasure trove of untapped talent. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 30 to 40 percent of talent is not being used. It’s not that employees aren’t working hard. It’s that their talent is not being optimized to its fullest potential.
How do you uncover and capitalize on this wealth of talent?
Talk to your team members. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many managers don’t have real, meaningful conversations with their team members. Oh sure, they hold meetings, and they discuss topics related to crises at hand, or whatever business issue there is. But when was the last time you had a conversation with your people that was not directly related to a project? Questions such as, “Where did you grow up?” “What do you enjoy doing outside of work?” or “What was your favorite subject in school?” can give you tremendous insight into the skills and talents that people have. I was talking to a client whose team consisted of a woman who was a trained actress. She had a BFA in classical theater and run a theater company before joining the corporate world. Her background in the theater made her an amazing, engaging presenter, and she was often called upon to present on behalf of the team at industry and internal events.
Accept that your team members are not perfectly well-rounded. No one is good at everything. The people on your team have their areas of strength, as well as complementary areas of weakness. We tend to focus on weaknesses—identifying them, working on improving them. This can be misguided. Rather than focusing on areas that could be improved, imagine what you could achieve if you concentrated on areas in which your team members already excelled? People tend to like the things that they are good at doing, and if you engage your team members on this level, the outcome can be extraordinary.
Check your bias. Your team members do not need to work the same way that you work. They don’t need to work the way you thinkthey should work. Allow them the flexibility to work in a way that works for them so long as the bigger goals are being achieved. You might be super-organized and use planners, calendaring programs and the like. Your team member may operate off a system of Post-It notes. If it works, leave it alone.
Be serious about continuous learning. At far too many companies, training is a joke. Log on, watch a video, call it a day. Another common complaint from employees is that training is often too narrow in focus. If you limit employees’ opportunities for training to only that which directly correlates to their current position/project, you’re selling everyone short. Encourage your team to take training on things that help them improve their skills and competencies – everyone will benefit!