BRKeenan & Associates, LLC

Great Work Groups Q#3: Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

Talents #13

Last time, I reviewed the second of Gallup’s 12 key factors in retaining good employees.  In this blog, I address factor #3: Self Fulfillment: Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?


  1. William “The Fridge” Perry and Super Bowl Touchdowns

In 1985, the Fridge, normally a defensive tackle with the Chicago Bears, scored a Super Bowl touchdown.  His 300# of muscle and girth had the mass and energy to cross that all important gridline.  While playing out of position, Mike Ditka (the Bears head coach) did not have Perry play too far outside – for example, The Fridge was not made into a temporary wide receiver.

Professional fulfillment is maximized when only when an individual is in a position to use his or her talents and strengths.  As Jim Collins in Good to Great would express it, “Getting the right people into the right seats on the bus.”  But matching the right person to the right job is extraordinarily difficult.  Most managers try only once, perhaps twice, and then chuck the person off the bus.  Wasteful.

  1. Talents vs Skills / Knowledge

In Gallup’s nomenclature, there is a fundamental difference between talents, which are fixed, determined and almost inviolate, and skills/knowledge, which as an expression of talents can be learned and adapted over time and experience.  I am not sure I agree with Gallup’s distinction, but their point is important: there are some attributes which are more readily adaptable to practice and perfecting and others are must less so.  As a basketball coach once said, “you cannot coach a 6’ 7” person the same as a 5’ 7” player.”

Similarly, every professional role has required talents, skills and knowledge.  While skills and knowledge can be picked up along the way, the required talents need to be there ab initio in order for the employee, and thus the company, to thrive.  Although everyone knows a grumpy, cantankerous sourpuss should not be your store greeter, everyday some stupid company put a similarly mismatched employee into an improper role and then wonder why he or she is struggling.

  1. The Matching Game: Roles and Talents

The best managers seek to identify the specific talents which are needed in each role.   Even seemly easier roles, such as a front desk clerk, have inherent requirements in order to be successful.  The TV show Gilmore Girls highlighted this requirement to great comedic effect by placing a French expatriate snob as a front desk clerk.   A scientific researcher without a curious mind or attention to detail will fail.  Gary Larson’s classic elephant flutist illustrates this point.

  1. Talent and Work Integration

One of Gallup’s key discoveries is the importance of putting the right people into the right roles.  No magical insight there, but managers often fail at this key element by putting whoever happens to be available into whatever task needs doing.  Whenever managers lack the ability or willingness to integrate a person’s talents (recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors), skills (what he or she knows how to do), and knowledge (what he or she knows) with the assignment position, failure rates will be high.

  1. Artistic Expression in the Workplace

Excellence should be demanded, in fact revered, in every role.  Just because I would not want a particular job or have the talent to perform it well, does not mean another might not.  In a self-fulfilling prophecy, if a manager structures a job as if no one in the world would want to do it, it becomes just that.  This false perspective is as wasteful as burning $100 bills in the trash bin. The best managers define what talents are needed for each role, and then choose the right person for that role. In other words, a great manager’s job is not grow their employees’ talents but to identify and then foster expression of already existing talents to their fullest potential.

Brett R. Keenan is a CFO/General Counsel for Small Businesses, Business and Executive Coach, and author of “Small Business 101: From Start-up to Success”.  Based in Chicago IL, BRKeenan & Associates has helped numerous large and small companies succeed, focusing on Finance, Law, Strategy and Operations since 1999.

©BRKeenan & Associates, LLC. April 2015