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Nature vs. Nurture – There May Be a Winner!

     I just read “Why Talent is Overrated”, an October Fortune Magazine article by Geoff Colvin. I love this article because I believe every Employee can make a big difference in an organization if they are properly trained, coached and mentored! Colvin posits great performance doesn’t come from innate talent (nature) but from intense “deliberate practice” (nurture). Instead of doing what we’re good at (our strengths); we must seek out what we’re not good at (our weaknesses).

     I just read “Why Talent is Overrated”, an October Fortune Magazine article by Geoff Colvin. I love this article because I believe every Employee can make a big difference in an organization if they are properly trained, coached and mentored! Colvin posits great performance doesn’t come from innate talent (nature) but from intense “deliberate practice” (nurture). Instead of doing what we’re good at (our strengths); we must seek out what we’re not good at (our weaknesses). And after we do each work activity, we get others (coaches or mentors) to tell us exactly what isn’t right so we can train/practice so when we repeat the activity we can make it better (think improving your golf game with the help of a pro). “Deliberate practice” continually stretches an Employee just beyond their comfort zone by identifying the difficult activities required to improve performance and then doing those activities over and over, with the focus on improvement.

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While Colvin suggests individual Employees can achieve high performance without the Employer’s involvement through self-regulation before work (setting immediate goals to be accomplished during the day), during work (close self-observation of their actions), and after a work activity (by comparing their performance against someone who does it better and adapting), to be most effective, “deliberate practice” requires a teacher, coach, or mentor to design those difficult activities and provide accurate feedback about performance.

Unfortunately, as Colvin observes, most Employers either aren’t aware of or ignore these fundamentals of creating great Employee performance. That means those Employers who do recognize the impact of “deliberate practice” and provide their Core Employees with the tools (training, coaches, mentors) needed to implement “deliberate practice” can achieve a huge advantage over competitors in the marketplace.

The Bottom Line is: Ongoing success in the WorkQuake© of the Knowledge Economy is based on Ordinary Employees producing Extraordinary Results. Employers must recognize the requirements for improving performance and provide their Core Employees with the support necessary – continual training, coaching and mentoring – so they can achieve individual greatness in the performance of their daily work activities. Most Employees can’t do it by themselves. However, the process of “deliberate practice” is an investment: the cost is now and high; the benefits only come later. Those Employers who believe the source of great Employee performance is in the nurturing of Core Employees will make that investment. As for the others, the dustbin of history is full of those companies who rely on nature to take its course.

P.S. I will be reading Covin’s book “Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.” And I strongly suggest you do too.

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