Deriving Excellence from Employees: Nurturing and Encouraging

I had a conversation with a colleague that went something like this:  We were discussing coaching of his two children and the differences he was experiencing with each.

“The oldest has such a good sense of the game and how to play,” he said.  “The other seems scattered, uncertain where to go, and lacks intensity.”

Granted we’re discussing 9- and 12-year olds.  I asked if perhaps my coach friend had similar misgivings with his youngest several years back.  He thoughtfully acknowledged that he had, though the eldest seemed more naturally gifted and engaged from the outset.

That got me to thinking.  It seems easier to encourage people and build on an already existing and demonstrated talent, and more challenging when no clear “gift” has emerged—yet.

So does this mean that the second child (in this case) is destined to fall short of the successes of the first?

I would argue no.

I see a natural parallel between this example and workplace employees. You hire people because you see talent, skills and behavioral characteristics that you believe fit with your company.  It’s what you do after that can make a difference.

Countless people I’ve encountered had rough starts in their careers or at particular jobs, and I’m happy to report, subsequently achieved phenomenal success.  Sometimes this meant changing careers or companies, but often it was a mentor or supervisor who put in time and effort to nurture still unrealized talents and resources of the employee.

On the flip side, I think it is easier to encourage when you see someone doing well.  Encouragement may be all the incentive an already performing individual needs to continue to produce good results.  Encouraging bosses tend to focus on employees already performing above expectations.  They view their goal as making the individual go the extra step to greatness.

Nurturing requires going a bit deeper—looking through the prism from a different angle.  Identifying the skill set and then applying it differently may be the key to success.  It’s about taking untapped talents and applying them to the right job.

Both are nurturing and encouragement are important.  But it takes a really superb leader—a mentor—to tap into an underdeveloped skill, lead it to success and encourage excellence.  Recognizing the difference and when one is required instead of the other is the mark of a great leader—and of a corporate culture that is highly individual and appreciates each employee for who they are.

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