"I wish I had known this sooner."
More than any other, this is the regret I hear my coaching clients express upon discovering and developing their talents. Ironically, the individuals who say this have several things in common: they are senior leaders in their organizations, they have a history of performance, and they have received multiple promotions. In short, they are successful professionals.
So why do these successful professionals express regret?
Overwhelmingly, they do not lament over what they might have known. They lament over what they might have done. They mourn the effectiveness they might have harnessed sooner, given the insights they now possess. They realize their talents helped them accomplish great things, but they have become aware that much of their achievement happened naturally, not intentionally. Their natural talent enabled them to do extraordinary things, but they realize they could have done even more. In essence, they arrived at many of their successes by accident, not on purpose.
But this unpleasant realization provides fertile ground for exponential growth. People who understand how their talents have enabled them to achieve in the past, even if they lacked intentionality, are more likely to leverage these talents toward the outcomes of their choosing in the future. As a coach, my role is to help them close the gap between accidental and intentional by asking questions like, "What would it look like for you to go into your next staff meeting and demonstrate care for your people on purpose?" Or, "What is one idea you have to wield your persuasiveness more actively? With whom is it most important to do this?" Working with them to establish a clear mission, purpose, and goals in key areas is also critical to this process.
Creating practical steps and linking those steps to specific talents yields tangible results. It also gives individuals a greater sense of control over those results and a greater feeling of accomplishment about having delivered them. Better still, the process is replicable, as individuals apply their talents in new arenas or exercise other talents that were dormant.
Having done this, these already successful professionals not only multiply their own successes, but also foster this movement toward intentionality in others, often starting with their direct reports. This cascading effect, as it gathers momentum, improves awareness and outcomes for entire divisions and organizations.
Intentionally, not accidentally.
Stosh Walsh's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Significance, Command, Achiever and Analytical.