In the previous post I defined Barrier #1 – We Have Limited Time. Today I will define barrier #2 – We can do many things but we cannot do everything. (Hint – this is a longer article than I normally like to post but I am confident you will find it worthwhile.)
So then, what talents do you have? By this time in life, you probably know. But can you list them? Maybe not.
Many people just do certain things and avoid others without considering why. What do you do for a hobby? Of the many tasks that confront you every day, what tasks do you perform first? What bores you? What do you put off as long as you can? If the schedule gets tight, what falls through the cracks? What do you do when no one is paying you to do it? What do others consistently ask you to do?
We typically gravitate toward tasks and responsibilities that employ our innate gifts and away from those that don’t. While knowledge may be acquired and skills developed, talents are what come naturally and easily to you. Talents, when put into action, make us feel good about ourselves and what we have done. We employ them precisely because they are comfortable. Tasks and responsibilities outside our natural deposit of talents make us feel stressed, anxious, or unsatisfied.
Talents show up everywhere – at home, at work, in recreation. If we have a talent for planning, we plan everything. Even the routine of planning is planned. If we are visionaries, we see the future with excitement and anticipation. If we are organizers, we organize everything and everyone who will let us. But as much as talents are natural and show up everywhere, they are invisible.
When do others get annoyed with you? This question is so often the best clue of your talent. Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness because we overuse our talents, especially when we don’t know what our talents are. Unrecognized talents are dangerous. We rely on our talent even when it’s not needed. For instance, a skillful planner ignores creative input because she’s too logical. A take-charge manager unwittingly discourages others from sharing his ideas. A research scientist continues to gather data long after it’s time for a decision. An entrepreneur takes unnecessary risks when it’s critical to play it safe. There’s an old saying: To someone with only a hammer everything looks like a nail. When we know our talents, we can optimize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.
Want to find out what your talents are? Complete this sentence:
I am _____________________________________.
- Don’t respond with a job title. This exercise is not about your career, it’s about you as a person. Respond with adjectives that describe the unique qualities you bring to any situation (innovative, creative, determined, easygoing…).
- Respond with nouns that define the roles you most often, most comfortably play (leader, follower, number-two person, planner, organizer, motivator, problem-solver, etc.).
- Insert the word “that” and complete the sentence with words describing the benefit others receive from your presence and participation ( resolves conflict, gets things going, builds coalitions, etc.).
When you’re finished it should look something like this: “I am a focused, creative visionary that gets things going.”
Below is a list of fifteen possible talents. Identify several talents that are easy for you. Remember, talents are natural, knowledge is acquired, skills are developed. Which of these possible talents jump out and attach themselves naturally to you?
I am a Creator – I love to innovate.
I take abstract ideas and turn them into concrete projects (or timelines, products or services) that others can use. However, once the idea or project is fleshed out, I lose interest.
Implementer – I am action-oriented.
I know how to get things done. I often don’t come up with the original idea, but I know how to make things happen. Just tell me what’s needed and turn me loose. Everything starts moving when I’m involved.
Facilitator – I keep the process moving.
I make sure that people are getting along and focusing on what needs to be done. I see the value of different views and help people appreciate other perspectives.
Visionary – I see what can be.
I see where we need to go in the future. My ideas are ahead of their time. I can imagine what does not yet exist. I see new possibilities. It takes others a while to see what I’m trying to describe.
Analyzer – I see the factors at work in situations.
I can take in large amounts of data and identify trends. When something goes wrong, I can sort through the facts and get to the bottom of it. I use a rational, logical approach to solving problems.
Planner – I put things in sequence.
I anticipate what’s needed. I can see where problems might arise and what we need to do to have everything work out well. I lay out what needs to be done and if people follow my plan, things go smoothly.
Coordinator – I join this to that.
I like to orchestrate events. I bring people together and coordinate a host of details in order to pull off a project or event. I can keep track of a million details and bring it all together in the end.
Mentor – people look to me for advice, direction, input.
I enjoy developing people. I am often a coach or a sponsor for individuals or initiatives. I like to teach or advise individuals and I take an interest in them.
Promoter – I talk things up, get people involved.
I get others interested in new ideas, products or services. I generate enthusiasm by talking to lots of people and bring attention to new ideas, projects and possibilities.
Integrator – I fit things and people in.
I bring people and ideas together. I see the interrelationships between ideas or tasks and connect them to achieve a common purpose.
Improver – I’m not critical, I simply see flaws easily.
I quickly see problems inherent in a new design or document or plan. I quickly find the mistakes and flaws. If you don’t like criticism, don’t run your ideas by me. I like to improve an idea and make it better.
Developer – I build something where there was nothing.
I like to develop new ideas, projects or businesses and make them successful. I can take a small project or idea and develop it into a large, successful project, prototype or business that has value and that others want.
Investigator – I sniff out information.
I like to research the facts. I gather data from many sources and synthesize what I find. I search out new information from diverse sources. I never have enough data. If it requires research, let me do it.
Broker – I network this person with that one.
I like to put people in touch with one another. I have a broad network of friends and associates that I connect with each other. Others come to me to find valuable resources they need for projects.
Communicator – I like being the one in the know and letting others in on what’s happening.
I like to communicate what’s going on. I am often in the know about things. People come to me to find out what’s happening.
Knowing what I’m good at is one-third the equation.
We also need to know what we’re not good at. If I do some things well, I do other things not so well and I do some things poorly. If I want to extend my reach, multiply my effectiveness, divide my work, and quicken my pace I can use help in those things I don’t do so well and absolutely must have help for those things I do badly. But there is a final element that threatens both of the first two.
Because you are effective as the result of your unique talents, you probably think that others should be like you. It is hard for planners to understand why others can’t, or won’t plan. If you broker people together, you might not have much patience with someone who prefers to work alone. Trying to make everyone like yourself, or even assuming they should be, is a fatal mistake.
Without doubt, you have discovered that your talents have yielded a certain degree of success, maybe even a great degree of it. And you probably consider your particular talents to be more valuable and worthy than those manifested by others. Most humans do even if they won’t or can’t admit it.
The reality is they aren’t.
There are reaches of your circle of concern that are out of reach for you as you are. And if you are out of touch with yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, they will remain elusive. Discover who you are, what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and what talents you need to fill the gap.
Further, it isn’t a good idea to add someone too much like yourself to the mix because of inevitable conflict.
Two planners will battle over whose plans will be used. Two promoters will vie for the loudest voice. Two visionaries, perhaps the most dangerous marriage, lead to the most threatening condition – two visions, which is division. So while you are likely most comfortable with someone of like mind and ability, and you will be stretched to make room for someone whose strengths do not match your own, it is a good tension. For example, if you’re an innovator, you might feel someone who is an analyzer is slowing you down. Just remember that you select the talent you need. You don’t need and shouldn’t try to add every other major talent to your strategic partnership of assistants. Pick people whose talents, knowledge, and skill further your own in the dimensions of concern that are uniquely and particularly yours.
Inasmuch as you are naturally gifted and talented, you are as uniquely developed as a personality. Your genes provided the basic mix of traits that make you, well, you. Your childhood molded and shaped them further. The sum of personal experiences, good and bad, produced the person living inside your skin at this moment. That personality causes you to relate to others, and consequently provokes them to respond to you, in a manner both beneficial and detrimental.
On Thursday, I will define barrier #3 – We have preferences because of our personality.