A Golden Rule of Talent Development

A Golden Rule of Talent Development

I recently received a phone call from the 2nd generation leader of a family business. He was ready to fire one of his top sales performers who was a family member. He knew it was a big decision and was extremely stressed about the situation. The sales person in question was perceived very negatively by the organization. People called him a know-it-all, arrogant with a huge ego and very few of his team members wanted to work with him. Obviously, he was not well-liked. From a company perspective this employee was bringing more negative value than positive value to the organization. The leader felt the only solution was to get rid of the team member despite his performance in the sales department.

The company leader and I sat down and I shared with him one of our golden rules of talent leadership development: Develop what you can change about an individual and leverage what you can’t change. By that I mean that you can’t change someone’s natural behavioral style but you can develop everything else about them.  

Every person has a natural behavioral style that is created by the time they are seven to ten years old and it is unlikely to ever change. I explained to the company leader that the organization needs his natural behavioral style of a sales hunter. They are hard to find and it is what makes him successful at landing new business for his company. I went on to explain that we need to leverage his natural style while developing his soft skills that will minimize/eliminate his perceived arrogance and ego. Those are things we can change through self-awareness and leadership development. 

Here’s the secret: while we can’t change an individual’s natural behavioral style, we can enhance the person’s hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the technical knowledge to excel at your profession, such as taking a seminar on the process to close a sale. Soft skills are an individual’s ability to get things done through and with other people. Through a development process that uses behavioral science we can now measure and develop 25 soft skills. 

As we continued our conversation I could tell the leader was starting to understand this golden rule and beginning to see a miraculous outcome versus the family drama and heartache that would be created with his initial solution. He was now moving towards a breakthrough versus a breakdown. He recognized that the sales person has the behavioral style and hard skills but lacks the soft skills to be successful in his position. But those can be developed.  The leader went on to share with me the irony of this situation. Fifteen years ago this leader was perceived as arrogant and egotistical as well. Through self-awareness and leadership development he is now recognized as one of the most visionary and charismatic leaders in the industry. This also made the leader the perfect mentor to guide his sales person to experience incredible breakthroughs in his professional and personal growth. 

Now, if you discover through behavioral science that the team member is underperforming because he doesn’t have the right natural behavioral style for the position, then you might still have to make a change. Candidly, they never should have been offered that particular position to begin with if they didn’t have the right natural behavioral style. However, if you do determine they have the right natural style, then by all means, you need to invest in their development not their departure.    

As a leader, team member, friend or parent remember the golden rule to leverage those things we can’t change and develop those things we can and you will experience lifelong success with those you lead or guide/mentor.  Those who plan – Profit!

Steve Van Remortel is a strategy and talent thought-leader and consultant, blogger, speaker, certified behavioral analyst and author of the award-winning book, “Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream.” You can reach him at steve@stopsellingvanillaicecream.com. Register for his free monthly strategy and talent newsletter at www.stopsellingvanillaicecream.com