Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life

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Silicon Valley CEO, Don Maruska, and Coach University co-founder, Jay Perry, turn talent development in organizations on its head by giving every individual access to practical yet powerful talent development concepts and tools, in place of the traditional model of limiting talent development just to elite "high potentials."

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Your Take Charge Checklist

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Why do you want to take charge of your talent? Your reasons will be as individual as you are, and they are all valid. We’ve provided the checklist below for you to assess how this book can deliver what you truly want and need. Before you read about the keys to accomplishing all that, we invite you to consider which reasons resonate most for you. Which of the items on the checklist would benefit you, your organization, your family, and the rest of your life?

I want to …

Make better use of my talent

Gain more satisfaction from my talent

Move forward in my career with gusto

Know how to turn obstacles into stepping-stones

Identify and tap the resources I need to thrive

Develop the inner qualities I need to experience deep fulfillment

Enjoy a better balance at work where I’m neither bored nor overloaded

Build tangible talent assets that enhance my career and opportunities

Make a bigger contribution to others and receive recognition for it

Take pride in my work environment where everyone has opportunities to grow

 

1: Be Your Own Hero

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Strive to live the ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

RALPH BLUM

Your talent lives inside a story. Everyone has a story about his or her talent—what it is, how he or she has used it, and what’s gotten in the way. Your story works either for you or against you. It’s a story of limitation or a story of possibility: the tale of a victim or the tale of a hero. The victim story is one of fear, moving away from new possibilities, being stuck, and staying put. The hero story is one of hope, obstacles overcome, and action. It is a story of new chapters, fresh energy, getting unstuck, and taking charge. At some time or another throughout our lives, we have all probably played both roles, knowingly or not.

Since no one wants to be the victim of his or her story, it’s good news that the hero story can belong to all of us, not just a golden few. Most of us think of heroes as those extraordinary people who have almost magical abilities. Capes and super powers may even come to mind. For this book’s purposes, when we talk about being the hero of your talent story, we refer to everyday heroes—people who take action in the face of their fears and move toward their hopes to enjoy practical results.

 

2: Explore a Talent Catalyst Conversation

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The basic difference between human beings and other species is that we live in a world that is created by the stories we tell.

GEORGE GERBNER

We all need fresh perspective at times — but it’s hard to see life in a new light if we are groping around in the dark for the switch. The Talent Catalyst Conversation is the switch to help you to identify new possibilities and shine light on your situation. Amazing things can happen when you decide to engage your talent, and the first step is to recognize that you are the author of a story you can change—for good.

Let’s take a look at Ben’s story. Ben felt as if his life were set in stone. “I dreamed of being a teacher and helping others get ahead like my teachers helped me years ago. But I had no idea that I’d be struggling under the administrative details, standardized test pressures, and internal politics that consume so much of my energy and sap my passion for this job. My teaching job pays OK, and if I can stick it out to retirement, I’ll have a decent pension. I guess I’ll just keep my head down and gut it out, but that feels like giving up on myself and my dreams.”

 

3: Connect with a Catalyst

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To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.

CHINESE PROVERB

Fran was having a hard time changing her talent story. She needed help. She wanted to see herself from a fresh perspective, but she was unsure how. She felt frustrated and stuck. She met her friend Jules at a café, hoping to come up with options. As soon as Fran sat down and started talking, Jules took out his cell phone and sent a quick text and then fiddled with his watch. Fran ignored her friend’s inattention and plunged into the details. Jules gazed out the window and said, “Uh-huh.” Finally, he looked up at Fran, but his mind was somewhere else as he did the seven-mile stare. Fran braved on, “I’m stuck. Every management job I look at requires prior supervisory experience. There’s just no way around it.”

“Yeah,” said Jules, “I never liked your boss—what a jerk. Want my advice? Quit and work in a better office where you could be a supervisor. I mean, everyone likes you.”

 

4: Keep Your Hopes Humming

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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.

HELEN KELLER

When your hopes are alive and flourishing, you naturally move forward with confidence. As the hero of your own story, you’ll need to stay focused to sustain yourself on the journey into the territory of new possibilities. Learning how to live in a cycle of hope will not only energize you and keep you committed but also support your best creative thinking, which is imperative to your success.

You’ve opened the door for your talent. Let’s nourish it to thrive.

Have you noticed that some days you feel creative and open to new ideas and opportunities and other days you don’t? We see it all the time. People who are no smarter or more experienced successfully launch themselves forward, while others just see insurmountable obstacles in every direction. The way we respond to our environment is all related to how our brains are wired and which pathways we choose to follow on our journeys.

Do you remember Fran? All the jobs she wanted seemed to have a big “No Entrance!” sign. Fran wanted to become a manager. She didn’t have the prerequisites. “I don’t think I’m going to make progress anytime soon,” she said before her Talent Catalyst Conversation. During the Conversation, she realized that she had resources all around her that she had never noticed. With this new awareness, she created an action plan to move toward her hope. It was a turning point for her.

 

5: Grab Opportunities to Grow

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The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

To bring your hopes home, you will have to keep a vigilant watch and grab opportunities that come your way. You’ve already developed an eagle’s eye to focus on your hopes and transform many seemingly dead-end situations into beneficial pathways. In this chapter, we will look at three core ways of being and doing that will help you to express your talent and realize your hopes. Let’s have a preview.

Be open to opportunities. Does this sound too simple? You will be surprised at how many opportunities you miss simply because you don’t notice them. When you look at the world with fresh eyes, you will see what you did not see before.

Develop the inner qualities that will help you get to where you want to go. You’ll see which qualities serve you best, which qualities you may wish to enhance, and which qualities you may like to engage in others to bring your talent into its fullest power.

 

6: Challenge Yourself to Stretch

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I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

LEONARDO DA VINCI

To launch yourself forward and live a rich life of talent expression, you need to be willing to stretch beyond your present comfort zone. When we say stretch, we are talking about healthy stretches. To get going, we’ll help you to see yourself through a new lens and give you tools that will power up your talent under every circumstance—not in some ideal world but right where you are today.

With today’s hectic pace, many of us already feel stretched to capacity. We’ve been there ourselves and have helped thousands of people to overcome these obstacles and move ahead. We’ve also discovered that having powerful support in place is an absolute necessity. Thus, we’ll show you how to pull together your own Talent Fulfillment Team to cheer you on and catch you when you fall, making sure that you have what you need from beginning to end.

Have you noticed how your brain comes alive when faced with just the right amount of challenge? We like to call that a healthy stretch. A stretch helps us pay attention to what we are doing. When we feel ourselves stretching, we know that we are growing. What’s the right amount of stretch for you to stay focused on fulfilling your talent and growing sustainably?

 

7: Create Enduring Career Assets

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Are you crazy? Stick my face on the label of salad dressing?

PAUL NEWMAN

As a rugged actor and race-car driver who played mostly tough-guy roles, Paul Newman couldn’t imagine that his face would end up on salad dressing labels. But the Newman’s Own food label has given more than $330 million to charities across the globe. Newman was quoted as saying, “The embarrassing thing is that the salad dressing is outgrossing my films.”1 The actor hoped to support humanitarian causes and ultimately turned his talent into an asset—and a brand—that made massive contributions to the world.

So what does this have to do with you? Believe it or not, you too can turn your talent into solid and transferable assets, and you don’t have to be one of the most famous people on the planet to do it. A clear formula will guide you to create career assets using your unique talent, no matter what your specialty or position. As you build your own personal brand, you will communicate powerfully who you are and what you are all about so that others will see you shine at first glance.

 

8: Share the Wealth and Everyone Wins

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We want an organization of 20,000 learners and 20,000 teachers.

JUDY GILBERT, DIRECTOR OF TALENT, GOOGLE

Sharing our talent makes for a better world. Can you imagine living without good books, great movies, delicious food, techie devices, and the music you listen to on your way to work? Someone’s talent lies behind every expression of creativity that you value in your life, from homemade peanut butter to Facebook. When you make your talent tangible, it becomes transferable. In a world full of people embodying their talents, everyone wins. In today’s environment, your favorite music or performers may live thousands of miles away, but their abilities still enrich you. Likewise, small groups of scientists in Switzerland have breakthroughs that affect people in the United States, China, and Madagascar.

Tangible talent affects us on every level—personally, in our workplaces, and even at home. As you put your talent into action and make tangible career assets, and then share them with others so that they become organizational assets, you not only gain recognition but also open more room to grow for yourself and others. In turn, this expands opportunities to develop your talent. Think of it as a Talent Wheel (see figure 10). The more you contribute, the more you and your organization benefit. This regenerative process creates a culture of talent development in which everyone thrives. Let’s see how you can get your Talent Wheel spinning.

 

9: Champion a Take-Charge Talent Culture

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We are the makers of our own fate. The wind is blowing; those vessels whose sails are unfurled catch it and go forward on their way, but those which have their sails furled do not catch the wind. Is that the fault of the wind?

NARENDRANATH DATTA

You have already come so far. What have you discovered about yourself since you opened this book? Maybe you’ve unearthed interests and opportunities that you never imagined. Or maybe you have begun to look at life differently. Maybe you find yourself really listening to your friends and coworkers when they talk about their talent. You may also find yourself more effectively pursuing your own talent. Whether you are a freelancer, an administrative assistant, or a CEO, chances are that you see possibilities and potential in yourself and others all around you — potential that you may not have noticed before.

You’ll recall that in the introduction to the book, we invited you to consider how each of the items on the following checklist could benefit you, your coworkers, your organization, your family, and the rest of your life. We wanted the checklist to motivate you to see the world through a fresh and hopeful perspective. If you took us up on the invitation, it most likely started the process of bringing your hopes into reality. We thought you might enjoy looking back to see where you have made progress and how your use of the book has made a difference for you.

 

The Take Charge of Your Talent Manifesto

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1. We each have untapped talents and opportunities for greater satisfaction. Satisfaction corresponds closely with how much of our talent we put to use. Experience shows that even hardworking people who are the best and brightest people in their field typically have 30–40 percent of their talent untapped. We have a wealth of opportunities to contribute to the world and improve our personal well-being. We just need help to figure out how.

2. Accessing our hopes helps us to get out of our own way and stimulates better results. Our brains work both to protect us and to help us grow. When we are in a hopeful frame of mind, we engage the parts of our brains that specialize in creativity, insight, and development of alternatives. We need all these faculties to tap our talents and enjoy them more fully.

3. We can be Talent Catalysts for one another to generate new ideas and precipitate action. With carefully targeted questions, generous listening, and a focus on action, Talent Catalyst Conversations help us to look at our careers and lives from a new angle. We can readily learn and share these conversation skills with others.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Talent Catalyst Conversation

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The Talent Catalyst Conversation Guide, in chapter 2, provides the core information you need to conduct a Conversation — narrative, questions, and cues for the Catalyst. The following frequently asked questions and answers provide opportunities for both the Talent Catalyst and the participant to delve more deeply into the dynamics of the steps and ways to navigate issues that may arise.

Step 1: Connect with Your Hopes

What if the participant isn’t clear about her or his hopes?

Some people may not be clear about their hopes. After all, it’s not every day that people are asked about them! However, that’s the freshness and value of the question. So, take some time together to explore and listen. If the Talent Catalyst doesn’t see real energy or enthusiasm arising in response to the question, inquire further about what is important to the participant.

Some people fear expressing their hopes because they don’t know whether other people would support them and whether their hopes are achievable. In short, fears block them. That’s why we ask participants only to express why their hopes are important to them. We don’t ask them to explain their choices or defend whether or how they might accomplish them. The steps in Rounds II and III will help them to find pathways.

 

Sample Talent Catalyst Conversation and Summary

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Would you like to get some additional insights into a Talent Catalyst Conversation? This resource lets you sit in on an entire Talent Catalyst Conversation. We hope that “seeing one” will help give you the confidence to go ahead and “do one” as participant or Talent Catalyst, as well as some additional skills and insights that will support you in “teaching one” to someone else.

The following dialogue is an adaptation of a real Conversation and relates to Fran, one of the inspiring people featured in the book. You’ll see how she powered up her talent story and moved into action. In addition, you’ll see some commentary boxes that give additional insights into the process for both the participant (Fran) and the Talent Catalyst (Gary).

Fran’s story is representative and inspirational. Still, it’s important to remember that no two Talent Conversations are exactly alike. Some Conversations flow beautifully and lead people to absolute clarity and immediate action. Others seem to go in fits and starts until important openings occur. Yet others leave people in a place of contemplation rather than assertive action. We find that it works best to trust yourself and the process to come to just the right result for now.

 

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