I’ve picked the book “First, Break All the Rules” back up as I strive to learn more about managing people, and have been blown away by the wisdom in it gathered by the enormous studies done by the Gallup Organization. The first section of this book (which I read earlier this year) inspired my other Discourse topic “A Better Onboarding”. Now I’m back to summarize some of what I’ve learned more recently about talents.
Defining Talent and its Differences from Skills or Knowledge
The most important difference is that skills and knowledge can both be taught. Sometimes it requires persistence, but skills and knowledge can be transferred or acquired. Talent on the other hand cannot, regardless of the amount of persistence any individual or group may have. Talents are those deeply ingrained habits we possess because of the lives we’ve lived and the structures of our brains. Talents are deeply intuitive to us.
Talents are the filters we’ve been forced to create in our brains while being alive. It tells you which stimuli to focus on or ignore, to love or hate, so that you can function. From this comes our motivations, how we think, our attitudes in life. This filter which dictates your distinct patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior are, in effect, the source of your innate talents.
Because of your unique filter, you are a deeply unique individual who will respond to stimuli in a deeply unique way. What’s excruciating for someone else, may be pleasant for you. Something tedious for you, may be extremely fascinating to another. Let this uniqueness guide you to the role that fits you best.
It can help to imagine our brains as maps consisting of 4 lane highways that expediently send signals, and “deadzones” where no traffic crosses. In our early teens, our brains take all the expansive roads we’ve created thus far, and pares them down to those most frequently used. The most relevant roads get expanded into highways that allow fast, efficient traffic. The most underused roads fall into disrepair and create deadzones that are difficult if not impossible to cross. In some cases, we can create some one-lane roads through deadzones later in life, but only with extreme effort, resources, and support.
The wisdom offered in this book is this: don’t focus all your energy on trying to eliminate your weaknesses or deadzones. Instead, embrace, hone, and position yourself to use those 4-lane highways to the best advantage you can.
What are Skills?
Skills are the how-to’s of any role. They are capabilities that can be transferred or taught from one person to another. Skills can be broken down to their component steps to be reassembled and practiced by a student, who can gain the specific skills demonstrated.
Examples of skills are; arithmetic for an accountant, microsoft Excel for an assistant, administering a safe injection for nurses, the steps of brewing espresso for a barista, how to pour concrete for a construction worker, etc.
What is Knowledge?
Knowledge is “what you are aware of”.
There is factual knowledge which are the things you must know in order to appropriately do a role. Such as a construction site manager knowing the safety regulations required by the state, a food service worker understanding germ theory and the appropriate ways to keep food safe, a financial advisor who knows the economic laws of the country, or the safety regulations a flight attendant knows by heart.
There is also experiential knowledge which are the pieces of understanding you gain from having done something for a long enough time (I, personally, might call this wisdom). This kind of knowledge is like knowing that it’s important to check for rain before scheduling to paint the outside of a house, the way a store manager knows the ebb and flow of the buying season and hires on more employees during the holidays, or that certain customers want a lot of attention from a sales accociate but others would prefer to be left alone.
Your awareness of who you are, your values, why you make certain choices are also examples of experiential knowledge you gain over time through the act of listening to yourself.
What are Talents?
Talents are unique from skills or knowledge in that they cannot be taught, they are innate. These are the four-lane highways in your brain that you are able to easily access because it’s what you’ve been doing your entire life. You don’t gain or lose talents, you are your talents and your talents are you. Your talents are any of your recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be “productively” applied in your life. Your talents are the behaviors and filter through which you live your life.
While you can hone the talents you have, and if absolutely necessary, you could build a one-lane road through your deadzones with hard work; it’s a futile and demoralizing experience to try and construct a new 4-lane highway in your brain. Better to identify your innate talents and find the role that allows you to capitalize on them, rather than pouring all your energy into transforming your weaknesses.
Every person alive has talents. Every role performed with excellence requires talent. It’s just about finding (or in my case, designing) the right role and environment in which to practice your innate talents.
The Three Types of Talent:
Below are descriptions of the three types of talents. I’d be surprised if anyone made it through life without developing at least a few talents of each type. You’ll see a list of examples for each type I pulled from the book’s appendix, but these examples are by no means exhaustive and simply give you a better sense of the character of each of the three types.
Your striving talents are the why, the motivations of your life. What creates a sensation of drive for you? Why do you get out of bed every day? What is it that pushes you to engage in your work, or your relationships, your life in general? Is it your competitiveness? Your desire to do things for others? Your need to be distinctive?
Examples of Striving Talents:
- Achiever: A drive to achieve that is internal, constant, and self-imposed
- Kinesthetic: A need to expend physical energy
- Stamina: Capacity for physical endurance.
- Competition: A need to gauge your success comparatively
- Desire: A need to claim significance through independence, excellence, risk, and/or recognition. (LB might call this “Acclaim”)
- Competence: A need for expertise or mastery.
- Belief: a need to orient your life around certain prevailing values
- Mission: A drive to put your beliefs into action
- Service: A drive to be of service to others
- Ethics: A clear understanding of right and wrong which guides your actions
- Vision: A drive to paint a value-based idea about the future
- Thrill: A need to seek out thrilling, risky, or otherwise highly activating experiences (Added by LB)
Your thinking talents are about how you do things. How do you come to your decisions, how do you tackle challenges, how do you weigh your options? Do you like to keep all your options open? Do you prefer to be disciplined, or as unstructured as possible? When you think are you linear? Strategic? Whimsical?
Examples of Thinking Talents:
- Focus: An ability to set goals and use them to guide daily actions
- Discipline: a need to impose structure onto life and work
- Arranger: an ability to orchestrate
- Work Orientation: a need to mentally rehearse and review
- Gestalt: A need to see or create order and accuracy
- Responsibility: a need to assume personal accountability for your work
- Concept: an ability to develop a framework by which to make sense of things
- Performance Orientation: A need to be objective and to measure performance
- Strategic Thinking : An ability to play out alternative scenarios of the future
- Economic Thinking: The financial application of strategic thinking talent
- Problem Solving: An ability to think things through with incomplete data
- Formulation: An ability to find coherent patterns within incoherent or unorganized data (perceiving patterns)
- Numerical: An affinity for and understanding of numbers
- Creativity: An ability to break existing configurations in favor of more effective/appealing ones
- Wonder: An ability to see the unique beauty, whimsy, and/or marvel in anything. (Added by LB)
Your relating talents are about how you interact in your social relationships. Whom do you trust? How do you confront others? Whom do you build relationships with? Whom do you ignore?
Examples of Relating Talents:
- Woo: A need to gain the approval of others
- Empathy: An ability to identify the feelings and perspectives of others
- Relator: A need to build bonds that last
- Multirelator: An ability to build an extensive network of acquaintances
- Interpersonal: An ability to purposely capitalize upon relationships
- Individualized Perception: An awareness of and attentiveness to the differences in individuals
- Developer: A need to invest in others and to derive satisfaction in doing so
- Stimulator: An ability to create enthusiasm and drama for yourself and others
- Team: A need to build feelings of mutual support
- Positivity: A need to look on the bright side
- Persuasion: An ability to persuade others logically
- Command: an ability to take charge or lead
- Activator: An impatience to move others to action
- Courage: An ability to use emotion to overcome resistance
- Assertive: An ability or need to bring your perspective forward (regardless of the topic’s sensitivity)
- Confrontation: An ability or need to derive satisfaction from sparring with and overcoming resistance
As I (LB) progress in SourceCred, I hope to help others within the project find the intersection between their talents and the roles SourceCred needs played. Eventually, I hope for an entire “class” of participant populated by people who excel at seeing and guiding the talents of others.
So, I’m curious!:
In these three areas, which talents do you see in yourself? Whether they’re listed in the examples, or not.
Which talents do you see in other SourceCred participants?
What kinds of talents do you think fit what kinds of roles or environments best?
Which of your talents feel truly exercised when you work on SourceCred? Which talents feel unsatisfyingly underutilized to you?
What do your talents tell you about the roles you’ve played in work environments? Social environments? When you’re alone?
Your reply can be detailed, or a simple list. Share anything you want to about yourself, your talents, or things you’ve realized through reading this!