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Power Profitability with a Starburst Approach to Talent Development

by Guest Writter
Don Maruska and Jay Perry

Did you know that 30 to 40 percent of talent lies untapped in even high performing organizations? Imagine the profitable results you would enjoy if your business could access that talent without spending a lot of money to do it.

You can tap this wellspring of riches once you pursue talent development not as a mechanistic process from the top down, but rather as a sunburst radiating from the individual out.

Consider the real-life results of Mark, Vice President of Production for a mid-sized manufacturing company.  Mark’s organization had done all of the traditional things to encourage high performance from Mark. He rose through the ranks being guided by performance reviews, executive courses, and coaches.  He and his superiors knew his strengths and personality type.  He successfully set targets and met or exceeded them. Mark enjoyed the benefits of his position and yet, he felt unfilled. He was going through the motions, but the fire in his gut and spark in his creative mind flickered. What was missing?

What could connect Mark with his deepest aspirations and recharge his battery from within? The process began with a simple question:  “Mark, what are your hopes for your talent?”

Mark’s answer surprised even him.

“In my spare time, I love to play around with inventions. I’d love to be able to bring that into my work.”  Excitement and energy bubbled up in his voice.  However, Mark’s interest in inventions was not part of his job description at the time. Thankfully, his organization saw the potential and gave him space to pursue his passion.

In the following two years, with the organization’s blessing and many hours of extra effort on his own time, Mark patented two new manufacturing processes that made his company more competitive and more profitable. And Mark felt more fulfilled and fully engaged.

Why was this employee-centered approach so successful?

Instead of viewing talent development as a top down initiative in which he had a limited set of options, Mark was invited to use a “starburst” approach that views talent not simply as employees’ strengths or skill sets; but rather as their self-expression – the joyful demonstration of their unique abilities that benefit both them and the world.

This approach:

* Replaces carrots and sticks with intrinsic motivation,

* Gives each individual responsibility for his or her own talent development,

*Encourages creativity and innovation, and

*Organically and sustainably boosts employee engagement.

Many of today’s leading organizations like Google adopt this focus on ways to tap the creativity and initiative within their employees. Recognizing this interest and the challenge organizations face in trying to figure out how to support employee-motivated initiatives, we’ve developed three keys that any organization can apply to unlock talent profitably. Here’s a brief summary.

Key #1: Power Up Your Talent Story. Employers shift their roles from directing what employees do to serving as catalysts to stimulate employees’ thinking and initiative. In an hour or less, a supervisor can guide an employee through a carefully constructed set of questions that have proven successful in helping people move from their hopes to opportunities to actions. This is what started Mark’s creative engine firing.

Key #2: Accelerate through Obstacles.  The second key transforms obstacles into opportunities. Team members leverage tools to turn obstacles into talent accelerators. Such tools include accessing inner qualities (for example, curiosity, generosity, and assertiveness), mashing up the untapped resources before them to create more out of what’s already available, and “speed planning” that sketches out talent action plans in less than 15 minutes to gain results quickly.   Mark’s road to success was not without challenges.  He had to find creative ways to be responsible for his other accountabilities, manage his time in new ways, and keep up his enthusiasm for his projects when it looked like he might fail.

Key #3: Multiply the Payoffs for Yourself and Others.  The third key engages team members to translate their knowledge and skills into enduring career and organizational assets. Thus, instead of ideas and know how walking in out of the door each day, they become tangible and win-win opportunities for employees and their organization.   The patents and prototypes Mark generated served as tangible demonstrations for his career and bankable assets for his firm. The same dynamic that makes self-organizing systems like Wikipedia flourish can boost your business.

When you shift your approach to talent development from “top-down” to a “starburst” approach, you’ll unleash more of the creativity, passion, engagement, and productivity of your entire staff.


About the Authors

Don Maruska and Jay Perry are co-authors of “Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life” and Master Certified Coaches with more than four decades of experience helping thousands of people nationally and internationally to advance in their careers in startups, corporations, and beyond. See www.TakeChargeofYourTalent.com.

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