Conslt Article

How Special People become Ordinary

  • Career
Jo Henwood - 19 Nov 2017

As a Professional Visibility Coach I am usually in the business of helping people who are made to feel ordinary, feel valuable, so I was interested to read an HBR article recently that talked about the “talent curse” of high potential (special) employees who were being groomed for significant positions in their organisations, and to think about how their lessons could be useful advice to those (ordinary) employees looking to step up in their careers. I like to see what can be learnt when concepts get flipped on their heads. I have been working with this recently at my November Life Club, in which the exercises encouraged us to think about what we don’t want, or won’t do, as a way to clear these things out of our head space - leaving us focussed on what we do want. I asked clubbers to select from a box of chocolates and asked them to reflect on the process of selection to make the point: we discount what we don’t like, and with a few rounds of discounting, we are left with a much smaller number of favoured items. The thinking behind NLP and positive psychology encourages us to focus on the positive, and I support these methodologies wholeheartedly, however there is definitely a role for learning through looking at things from the opposite perspective. Referring back to the article, this “talent curse” came about for these nominated employees because they felt the burden of their status alongside it’s privilege, and therefore felt in some way obliged to conform to the ideal they were being groomed for. This, in many instances, resulted in them taking fewer risks than before and focussing on areas which would gain the most approval by the establishment. The result is a great irony; those challenger, innovator, disruptor behaviours that made them special in the first place, were lost in their efforts to live up to the leadership ideal. The curse left many disillusioned, unable to deliver as expected and several left the company altogether. The recommendation from the research to those afflicted by the “talent curse” was 3 things: • That employees own their talents but not become them, so that they separate out their work and personal identities so that a challenge at work is not a challenge to the self • That they bring their whole self, not their best self to work. This acknowledges that learning and growth comes from wounds and quirks, and that managers who are empathetic are often emotional people, so will rightly be overwhelmed by emotions at times • Value the present. Rather than striving hard for the final result, make work matter now and grow from it. Imagine now is your final destination and find purpose in it. As these recommendations are to counter the negative effects of the talent curse they provide ideal learning for those looking to grow, get noticed and advance at work, so consider the following if this applies to you: 1. Separate out the identity you have been given at work to your personal one. Your work identity is not who you are as a person. You have much scope to make the changes you desire if you are open to feedback and seek advice from managers and colleagues 2. You may not fit into the ideal mould that the organisation desires, but your experiences and quirks give you different perspectives and enable you to contribute in new and different ways. Find out where what your talents are and let them shine 3. Enjoy learning about yourself and improving while the spotlight isn’t on you, because one day it will be. Make mistakes and learn from them. Take the opportunity to practise and hone your skills now while you feel you can Everyone deserves the opportunity to shine, whatever label the organisation chooses to give them.