You Can Cultivate Talent But Not Teach It

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You can cultivate talent, but you cannot teach, coach, or even motivate people into developing skills they do not posses or are not naturally gifted. I used to believe that with enough effort, people could do anything they want. After all, I was told growing up that I could do anything I wanted to do as long as I set my mind to it and worked hard enough at it. Well, that’s a lie. A big fat lie.

talent

One of the reasons for whatever success we have seen at The A Group rests in our ability to hire talented people and challenge and resource them to continue to grow. I’m proud of the work of we do, but I’m mostly proud of the team that output so much quality. I have seen companies twice our size that are not able to accomplish as much.

Here are some skills you cannot teach people:

attention to detail
pride in their work
eye for design
desire to learn
problem solving skills
conscientiousness
hospitality

While some might argue that with enough training and coaching you can help someone do most anything, my experience tells me that’s a waste of time, resources, and a huge frustration for both parties. Do it right in the first place. Find the talent or skill set you need and put your efforts into growing someone instead of trying to shape them into something they can never become.


What else would add to this list?

  • Whatever it is that makes a good cold-calling salesperson.

  • Shari R

    Another for your list:  a sense of urgency!
    I have tried on multiple occasions and that one simply cannot be taught or mentored in to someone.

  • @maurilio   It is not often that I disagree but, this time, I must. I respectfully suggest you note the theses in _Talent Is Overrated_ by Geoff Colvin and _Blink_ by Malcolm Gladwell to see how skills can be developed over time.  Granted, by the time a person reaches adulthood, instilling a desire to learn or being contientious will be difficult.  However, I still believe the premise that skills essential for any task can be developed.

    •  Roy, I think we are all capable of learning a skill with enough effort. However, in the business context and a the level in which I expect my team to work, I think that’s an unrealistic expectation. The amount of time and resource it might take to get someone to meet a competent level is too high of a price to pay. I rather pour that into finding the naturally gifted and given them wings to soar. In my context we are looking for high achievers because of the expectation of the other team members.

      • I agree with you Maurilio. Even if someone could learn (which I do think IS possible, the time that it might take them to is often counter productive for the team IF the gap in their aptitude or natural ability is too big).

        I think there is a difference too between someone learning a SKILL versus having a personality trait or natural giftedness that gives someone an advantage over another. Teaching someone to be hospitable is not necessarily a skill. Hospitality itself is a personality trait or characteristic of genuinely caring about others. Yes, there are hospitality skills we can teach on how to leverage that trait of being hospitable but the trait itself is best utilized when someone has the natural desire and ability. If someone doesn’t genuinely like people or seems to at least, then no amount of tactical training will help change what the guest perceives and feels.

  • Working in the ministry sector, I’ve seen you also can’t teach people to truly love each other. You might be able to help others love more, to serve more and be more attentive to the needs of others, but if that initial love isn’t there, you can’t force leaders to be more loving.

  • I think the cornerstone of all of these is a desire to learn. Like you said, you can’t teach people talent, but if a desire to learn is at the core people will find talent they did not know they had. In essence, you are your greatest teacher, and believing that will grow every other area.

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