People often ask me to explain the difference between your talent and your occupational skill. We often confuse them, and when we do, it’s likely to cause dysfunction and disappointment for both ourselves and those with whom we work.
The best way to illustrate the difference is with a situation many of us have encountered during our careers. It goes like this:
There’s a person employed by your company who does great work and loves what they do. They have taken their inherent capacity for excellence – their talent – and given it the skills required to flourish on-the-job. That alignment of talent and expertise enables them both to perform at their peak and to derive the satisfaction that comes from being the best they can be.
Not surprisingly, this individual is perceived as a terrific coworker and top contributor. So, what does your employer do? It promotes this person to a managerial job. And, that’s when the trouble starts. Because now, the person isn’t working at their talent – that’s what they were doing in their last job. All of a sudden, they’re responsible for organizing a group of people into a high performing team, and they not only don’t enjoy the work, they don’t do it very well.
What’s the result? The person is unhappy to be sure, but for everyone else, it’s an unsettling and often miserable experience. They don’t get the leadership they deserve so their ability to perform at their peak is compromised and that undercuts both the paycheck and the satisfaction they bring home from work. In effect, the former peak performer has harmed both him or herself and the people who used to admire them.
The lesson here is as simple as it is profound: don’t allow yourself to be misplaced. Don’t let an employer do it, and just as importantly, don’t do it to yourself. Only accept jobs where you can apply your talent and thereby deliver excellence at work. It will serve you and your coworkers well.
Thanks for reading,