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What and where is your concealed talent?

Posted by Mark Bennett on March 18, 2013


Now that’s an expression for a skeptic!

The global workforce is loaded with concealed talent, resulting in lost value and opportunities for both business and workers.

Why is talent concealed? Two things really:

  1. We only see what we are looking for.
  2. We aren’t using reputation effectively.

The first causes the problem. The second is why it hasn’t been solved.

Concealed talent brings no reputation. – Desiderius Erasmus 1466/7/9?-1536

Who knew that a famous Renaissance humanist had such insight into two important 21st century concepts: talent and reputation?

The dirty lens of requirements

We can spend a lot of time coming up with job requirements and descriptions that don’t perform either function very well. Worse yet, they cause us to look at people in those roles solely through the lens of those requirements.

Anything else they might be able to add value with is ignored or overlooked most of the time, leading to lost value for the business and lost opportunity for the employee. This other talent is concealed.

“I’m an excellent driver.” – Rain Man

So what’s the answer? How do we make sure we know what concealed talent they have?

Is it self-identified skills? That’s a start, but it comes with its own set of problems, e.g. the “Lake Wobegon Syndrome” where everyone is above average.

Is it endorsements? That’s slightly better in that at least it’s someone else (we hope) saying you are good at something. Recent experience on a certain professional social networking service has led many to conclude that it’s a bit devalued.

What is it that’s missing from endorsements? It’s the validity of the endorsement.

Says who?

The answer is reputation. Sounds simple. But you have to do it right.

Your reputation is built on the perceptions of a wide array of perspectives of people who have worked with you, experienced your work, or heard about it from others. That’s both good and bad because sometimes reputation can be very different from reality.

The trick is to find out whose perspectives and which perceptions lead to more valid endorsements of talent. For instance, it doesn’t count so much if your 24-hour fitness instructor endorses your carbon fiber-based fuselage design skills, but maybe it’s someone well-respected in carbon fiber-based fuselage design (or perhaps just design around carbon-fiber materials or fuselages in general) who does. And your instructor might be better suited to endorse your self-discipline and ability to stay focused on goals.

In other words, those whose reputation is strong in an area are likely to be a more valid judge of talent in that area. So use that. It’s the gift that keeps giving, because those who get high marks by valid judges are themselves likely to be valid judges of others. Furthermore, reputation backlash can put some restraint on gratuitous endorsements. This isn’t earth-shattering news, but it’s not being used enough.

If only we knew what we know…

“If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three-times more productive.” – Lew Platt

Find out what your company knows. Use reputation as a tool to discover the concealed talent in your workforce.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

4 Responses to “What and where is your concealed talent?”

  1. Very well said Mark. Spotting the right talent for the right job and on the right time is a key differentiating factor for a leader. You need to have full confidence in your own ability to have right people in your team. Once you identify them, you should not leave any stone unturned to have them. Once they are in, you need to encourage them to perform and outshine you. At the end you and your company will automatically look good as your team will look good.

    • I agree, Anadi. We now have systems capable of holding this talent data. We now need to not limit our mindset, which means first, keep a total view of each individual’s talent and second, have a high internal mobility bias.

  2. Meg Bear said

    I agree reputation is so critical and so vague. It is important for each of us to remember how important it is to be purposeful in our actions to help craft the reputation we need to create the opportunities we want.

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