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Talent Match-up

When I was about nine years old, I begged my parents to let me take a gymnastics class. About halfway through the class, my parents came to observe my prowess as a gymnast. I gave it my best – but struggled through the somersault and couldn’t do a cartwheel. On the way out of the gym that night, my father said, “Honey, I don’t think this is your sport.”

You may know that I am very tall. Six feet tall to be exact. And at nine years old, I was certainly taller and more awkward than any aspiring gymnast. My father did me a favor and counseled me to look for a sport more aligned with my height. Basketball, perhaps?

Do you know your own best talents?

One of the traits I look for in leaders in self-awareness. How well do you know and understand yourself – and how are you using that knowledge to optimize your contributions to the organization?

There are many tools to help you gain self-awareness if you are interested. At Popeyes, we use a tool called StandOut to help people understand their unique design. There are many other tools: Strengthfinder, Myers-Briggs, Birkman, Hogan, DISC, and many more. None of the tools are a silver bullet, but if you are open to learning more about yourself, these are valuable resources.

To lead effectively, you need to know your best talents. In StandOut, my profile is “Creator-Pioneer.” The signature trait of this profile is “a perpetual fountain of ideas.”  When I read this out loud to my team, they began to laugh hilariously. Why? Because it is so completely true. This profile is the description of a person who loves to envision the future – to imagine the possibilities. An optimist who thinks up new ideas. Can’t help it – it’s how I’m designed.

Thankfully, these capabilities are important to my job. I use these skills to creatively solve problems and to envision the future of Popeyes. But let me remind you – the company would spin into chaos if idea generation was our only capability. We need people skilled in process, in details, in making things happen – or these ideas would never happen. My profile is dangerous alone – and powerful when matched with others who have gifts I do not have.

Are you using those talents in your current role?

When I meet a person unhappy at work, it is often because their current job requires skills they do not have – and their unique gifts are not valuable in their role.

At work, our sense of competence and our enjoyment of what we do comes from being in the right position to use our talents. It is fun to do work you are designed to do. It is hell to do work you are not designed to do – we feel incompetent and unfulfilled.

If you are not enjoying your current role, look to better understand your talents. Perhaps you have been asked to be a gymnast when you are really a basketball player. Find a better fit, as soon as possible.

Do you partner with people who have complementary skills?

When you know your talents, you also know your not-so-great talents. For me, I know that I am not a process or detail person. Project implementation charts are a beautiful thing – they are just not “my thing.” I appreciate people who have these mission critical skills, but if I am honest with myself, processing is not my natural gift.

If you are clear on your own talents, be equally attentive to partnering with others who have complementary skills. Think of them as the ying to your yang, the people who can do what you can’t or don’t want to do. Get to know these people who are very different from you. Ask them what they would do differently on a particular problem. Tell them how much you appreciate their unique skills. Partner with them on a major project and see if the blend of your talents can lead to extraordinary results.

Don’t spend your life trying to do a somersault when you can sink a basket from 30 feet. It’s a whole lot more fun to do what you do naturally and well. Oh, and by the way – you will do these things well.

That is serving well.

Put your talents to work in a way that advances your team and organization.

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