I invite you to take a moment to consider the people on your team or in the broader organization.
No matter how large or small the universe of employees, I bet you can think of someone who seems born for a particular role and another who is likely sending out resumes in hopes of finding a new job.
You can no doubt envision a worker who loves his position while, perhaps even on the same team, another employee possesses tremendous potential, but couldn’t care less about the organization.
I also venture a guess that if you get more people into the right positions that your work-life would be better and theirs would be more fulfilling.
The challenge is – how do you make that happen?
Frankly, there is no easy answer. What motivates one person may or may not motivate another. Someone might look perfect on paper for a particular position, but performing the role on a daily basis causes him to flounder, rebel, or worse yet “quit the job” but keep drawing a paycheck.
I offer the Talent Engagement Matrix as a way of looking at how well you are tapping into the Passion & Potential of your people. Of course, there are exceptions to this matrix, but I believe you will find that most of your people fall into one of the four categories. Perhaps you can apply some of my suggestions to help them truly succeed.
The Talent Engagement Matrix is a simple 2×2 model. I labeled one axis “Potential” and it focuses on the skills, capabilities, and/or aptitude one has for a given task or role. I call the other axis “Passion” and it addresses the energy and enthusiasm a person possesses for a particular position, team, or organization. You can assess individual employees from low to high (0 to 10) in both areas and then place the individual on the matrix. Depending on where someone falls on the Passion & Potential scales, he or she arguably resides in one of four quadrants. These are:
Disinterested Bystander (low passion/low potential)
Disinterested bystanders are those who have little passion for the organization and even less potential for the work. Perhaps a person needs a job and ends up getting work at a construction business, but he would much rather program a computer than swing a hammer. He may even be a natural at programming, but not a natural at constructing. Over time his lack of enthusiasm and potential for the work causes a once well thought of home building company to lose its luster and plenty of money along the way. The same can be true for someone who took a job, because The fit just isn’t there for either the organization or the work.
Starving Artist (high passion/low potential)
You are likely familiar with the idea of someone who is passionate about a particular art form (painting, dance, sculpting, etc.); yet, no matter how strong the love, she is not very good at it. Following this passion will cause her to struggle to make a living. However, if her enthusiasm can be channeled into a different area, she may be unstoppable. The same goes for Starving Artists in your organization. No matter how much they love the organization or their specific team, their performance consistently comes up short because they are not well suited for a particular role.
Indifferent Prodigy (low passion/high potential)
These are the people who are talented, sometimes amazingly talented, but possess an indifference for the organization or their specific team. They are the ones who will sit by while other people struggle. They could help those who aren’t performing well, but they don’t. They could take on more responsibility but chose not to do so. Essentially they fail to bring much enthusiasm to the work and at times get in the way of productivity.
Shooting Stars (high passion/high potential)
As the name suggests, these are the top performers and they possess the greatest capacity for continued success in the organization. They contribute daily, are often the source of the best ideas, and other employees seek them out for counsel, feedback, and guidance.
So, what do you do?
I invite you to think about your people.
- Where would you put them on the matrix?
- How well are you and your organization tapping into each employee’s unique passion and potential?
- If people aren’t positioned for success, what can you do about it?
If you aren’t sure, here are a couple of suggestions to consider.
Reinforce your Shooting Stars. Put programs in place to develop them, ensure that they know they are valued, and challenge them with greater opportunities.
The Starving Artists have the passion that you want. They likely live the values of the organization, but they are not well positioned. Reposition them. Give them an audition in another role and see if they can bloom.
The Indifferent Prodigy can be difficult. Reengage them. Give them another opportunity to see if their lack of involvement is a value misalignment or if they have simply had a bad boss or a bad experience that has calcified them. Talk straight to them about what you see in their behaviors and results. Let them know what they need to do to improve and create a plan together.
For the Disinterested Bystander, your best option is often to release him. Let him find a different organization where he can flourish. You will be happier in the long run and he will too.
One final thought…there are some people who sit at the mid-point of both passion and potential. These employees come to work, do a good job, and call it a day. They are important and shouldn’t be overlooked. We can call them Solid Citizens. You should remediate them. Coach them as needed and help them to continue to grow and develop.
Looking for more ideas on creating Shooting Stars, check out this article.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a sought after writer, speaker, and global leadership consultant. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.