Drive


A person’s drive is not changeable. What drives him is decided by his mental filter, by the relative strength or weakness of the highways in his mind. His drives are, in fact, his striving talents.

Take the striving talent of competitiveness as an example. Some people have a four-lane highway for competition. Show them scores and they will instinctively try to use these scores to compare their performance with that of their peers. They love scores, because what you can measure you can compare, and if you can compare, you can compete.

However, people with a wasteland for competition will see the same scores and not feel any jolt of energy at all. Putting themselves on a level playing field, putting their best efforts against their peers, and winning means nothing to them. They rationalize their behavior by opining, “I don’t like competition; I prefer win-win scenarios,” or the classic, “I prefer to compete with myself.” But these comments are just signs that their filter is, understandably, trying to describe itself in the most positive light.

The truth is that they are not competitive. There is nothing good or bad about this. It is simply who they are. And there is not much that either they or you, their manager, can do about it.

Similarly some people have a four-lane highway for constant achievement, a striving talent we call achiever. They may not have to win, but they do feel a burning need to achieve something tangible every single day. And these kind of people mean, “every single day.” For them every day—workday, weekend, vacation—everyday starts at zero. They have to rack up some numbers by the end of the day in order to feel good about themselves. This burning flame may dwindle as evening comes, but the next morning it rekindles itself, spurring its host to look for new items to cross off his list. These people are the fabled “self-starters.”

Not all roles require employees to possess this striving talent of achiever. Nurses, for example, do not have to generate all of their drive from within. Instead they have to respond caringly and efficiently to the urgent needs that face them everyday—for nurses the altruistic striving talent mission is much more important than achiever. But if you manage roles that do require achiever—like an insurance agent, a pharmaceutical salesperson, or any role where the person must initiate rather than respond—then remember; You had better select for it. Because if a person does not feel this burning fire, you cannot light it for him.

The same applies to all striving talents: the need to be of service, the need to be on stage, the need to be seen as competent, the need to help others grow. All of these drives are talents, and therefore they have the same characteristics as other talents. Namely, they are part of each person’s mental filter. They are unique and enduring.

A manager can never breathe motivational life into someone else. All she can do is try to identify each employee’s striving four-lane highways and then, as far as is possible, cultivte them.

When describing human behavior, stick to the clarity of skills, knowledge, and talents. Tread carefully when using habits or competencies—they lump too much together rather haphazardly. Likewise, if you feel a need to use attitude or drive, be cautious. Remember that a person’s drive and his prevailing attitudes are talents, and as such, they are very hard to change. When you hear yourself berating the person to “get a better attitude,” watch out. You might be asking him to tackle the impossible.

None of this implies that a person cannot change. Everyone can change. Everyone can learn. Everyone can get a little better. The language of skills, knowledge, and talents simply helps a manager identify where radical change is possible and where it is not.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

The Three Kinds of Talent


There are three basic categories: striving talents, thinking talents, and relating talents.

 Striving talents explain the why of a person. They explain why he gets out of bed every day, why he is motivated to push and push just that little bit harder. Is he driven by his desire to stand out, or is good enough good enough for him? Is he intensely competitive or intensely altruistic or both? Does he define himself by his technical competence, or does he just want to be liked?

 Thinking talents explain the how of a person. They explain how he thinks. How he weighs up alternatives, how he comes to his decisions. Is he focused or does he like to leave all his options open? Is he disciplined and structured, or does he love surprises? Is he a linear, practical thinker, or is he strategic, always playing mental “what if?” games with himself?

 Relating talents explain the who of a person. They explain whom he trusts, whom he builds relationships with, whom he confronts, and whom he ignores. Is he drawn to win over strangers, or is he at ease only with his close friends? Does he think that trust must be earned, or does he extend trust to everyone in the belief that most will prove worthy of it? Does he confront people dispassionately, or does he avoid confrontation until finally exploding in an emotional trade?

 Striving, thinking, and relating: these are the three basic categories of talent. Within each you will have your own combination of four-lane highways and barren wastelands. No matter how much you might yearn to be different, your combination of talents, and the recurring behaviors that it creates, will remain stable, familiar to you and to others throughout your life.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Nontalent vs. Weakness


As you might expect, great managers take a welcomingly pragmatic view of our innate imperfection. They begin with an important distinction between weaknesses and nontalents. A nontalent is a mental wasteland. It is a behavior that always seems to be a struggle. It is a thrill that is never felt. It is an insight recurrently missed. In isolation, nontalents are harmless. You might have a nontalent for remembering names, being empathetic, or thinking strategically. Who cares? You have many more nontalents than you do talents, but most of them are irrelevant. You should ignore them.

 However, a nontalent can mutate into a weakness. A nontalent becomes a weakness when you find yourself in a role where success depends on your excelling in an area that is a nontalent. If you are a  server in a restaurant, your nontalent for remembering names becomes a weakness because regulars want you to recognize them. If you are a salesperson, your nontalent for empathey becomes a weakness because your prospects need to feel understood. If you are an executive, your nontalent for strategic thinking becomes a weakness because your company needs to know what traps or opportunities lie hidden over the horizon. You would be wise not to ignore your weaknesses.

 Great managers don’t. as soon as they realize that a weakness is causing the poor performance, they switch their approach. They know that there are only three possible routes to helping the person succeed. Devise a support system. Find a complementary partner. Or find an alternative role.  Great managers quickly bear down, weigh these options, and choose the best route.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight