Earlier this week, after finishing early calls with my overseas colleagues, the morning sun was too inviting to ignore. My son and I decided to go cycling through the quiet Gdansk forest, up to a nearby hill. As we cycled and the trees whispered around us, my thoughts flowed freely.
Choosing Different Paths
Thinking back, I remembered his days as a triathlete. Watching him pedal uphill with the spirit of Tadej Pogačar and go downhill with the skill of Tom Pidcock, I realised that talent never really goes away; it’s just waiting for its moment. Still, sometimes it just remains untapped. And that morning, he was ahead while I was trying to catch up.
Yet, living now at the foot of the ‘Dutch Alps’ in the Netherlands, he had chosen to leave his bike behind when he moved there for his studies. While the Dutch Alps would seem a cyclist’s paradise to many, he has found new interests and passions there. The academic journey, combined with the discipline of strength training and martial arts, have become his new focal points. It’s a clear reminder that we sometimes choose new paths, not because we don’t love the old ones, but to explore something new.
These thoughts and observations made me reflect on similarities in the business world, based on two articles I recently read about the importance of recognising and supporting talent in businesses.
Find, invite, stimulate and grow talent
The Forbes article by Tammy Sons talks about the value of finding and growing talent from within a company to keep a strong team spirit. I was reminded of what Harvey S. Firestone said: “Growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” I absolutely agree with this. Unfortunately, I often see business owners focusing too much on their company’s profit growth and forgetting about their team’s development.
In today’s world, people want more than just a good salary. They want to grow and feel valued in their jobs. And promoting from within isn’t just about filling a job; it’s about seeing potential and helping it grow.
Johnson’s piece in HBR describes that talented individuals often fail to recognise or use their strengths. The reason, she suggests, isn’t a lack of awareness of these strengths but rather an undervaluation of them. We often dismiss our ‘superpowers’, skills we accomplish reflexively, mistaking them for being ‘too easy’. Hence, as leaders, our role is dual-faceted: first, to identify these hidden talents within our teams, and second, to convince individuals of the value of their innate strengths.
This aligns seamlessly with the Forbes article, emphasising the importance of stimulating an open culture, establishing learning goals, investing in mentoring, and allowing for flexibility. It’s essential that leaders not only recognise but also actively develop the unique skills and choices of their teams.
In our families, this can be a bit harder. Because families often care too much, they try to help and grow these skills. But there’s a balance. Pushing too hard can feel like telling someone what to do, which can cause problems.
Finding the right balance is important in both cases. It’s good to recognise and support skills, but we should be careful about pushing too hard.
Always look for and facilitate untapped gems
As my son and I cycled, I thought about the many talents that are just waiting for the right time to shine. For business leaders, the challenge is to create a work environment that helps these talents grow. This means open talks, setting clear goals, mentoring, and being flexible.
By the end of our ride, I felt a mix of pride in my son’s talents and the paths he has chosen. We have an amazing responsibility both as parents and leaders. Whether at home or at work, recognising and supporting potential is both a challenge and a reward.
I’d recommend reading the Forbes and HBR articles to dive deeper into these ideas. How do you, as leaders, parents, or mentors, see and support the potential in those around you? Feel free to share your thoughts below and join the conversation.