Identify, Understand and Cultivate Native Genius

26 August

Corporate culture is interesting - especially, the give and take that occurs between employees and employer. I think the conventional wisdom for most employees is that companies are there to “take” the skills and time of employees. In truth, the conventional wisdom of most companies is to try and get the most out of employees. But often companies' efforts to “get the most” from employees has little to do with what the employee can best offer the employer. Wouldn’t it be more optimal if the employee “gave” their best?

The silver lining in the recent economic recession is the forcing function that employers are feeling to utlize their human resources more effectively. This forcing function was called out by an Accenture study that was reported by Business News Daily,

Despite current challenges, employees are still striving for success — and energized, engaged employees remain a competitive advantage," said Adrian Lajtha, Accenture's chief leadership officer. "Since the majority of today’s professionals are not job hunting, leading companies must capitalize on this moment in time to equip their people with clearly defined career paths that include innovative training, leadership development and opportunities for advancement.

While it may not be conventional wisdom, it sure makes common sense for the leaders of a company to do all they can to help employees offer their best during any economic condition. So how can you assure that the people on your team are at their best? When will they be most happy and give you their best? The answer is to identify, understand and cultivate each employee’s native genius. This is a concept that I think I did naturally as a leader but it came to life when I read the book “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown and then was fortunate to hear Liz Wiseman speak at a conference at Brigham Young University last year. From Multipliers,

A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition)…they get results that are head-and-shoulders above others but they do it without breaking a sweat.

At Infusionsoft, we have adopted exercises to help our people identify, understand and cultivate their native genius. 1. Identify Native Genius. Most companies evaluate employees on their skills and experience and employees respond to this evaluation.  But ask an employee what their native genius is and you typically won’t get skills or experience. The words “Native Genius” describe your very best that is inside you and often includes your passion. That may not be the skills you have learned.  We use these questions that come from Multipliers (page 48) to help our employees identify their native genius. 

  • What do you do better than anything else you do?
  • What do you do better than the people around you?
  • What do you do without effort?
  • What do you do without being asked?
  • What do you do readily without being paid?

2. Understand Native Genius. Once everyone has identified their native genius, we create small groups of 3-4 people and ask the participants to identify the native genius of the members in their group using the same questions above but substituting “they” for “you.” Then the group members share what they identified as native genius for one of the group members (focus person). After the group members have shared what they think the native genius of the focus person is, the focus person shares her native genius. This is a powerful experience and is also a great teambuilding exercise as people share the genius they see in one another. 3. Cultivate Native Genius. A definition of cultivate is to produce by culture. While this is a term used in biology, I love its application to cultivating talent through intentional corporate culture. When people have identified their native genius, and understood that it is appreciated by others, they naturally seek opportunities to contribute where they native genius is valued. In turn, more people (including leaders) will see this native genius and the power it has to produce results. The Company’s responsibility (culture) should be to find opportunities to match the needs of the enterprise to the native genius of the employee. Providing employees the opportunities to discover their native genius, share it will achieve the best results possible for the assets they have available. People will then become the competitive advantage that HR theorizes is possible. If you spend some time thinking about the people in your organization, you will recognize that you have people that could be doing more. Is it that they don’t care or are lazy? I doubt it in most cases. Try this exercise to identify, understand and cultivate genius and I am confident that you will liberate these people and you will see a productivity change that could not occur in any other way. As cultivation occurs and growth commences, roots also drive deeper. These roots are the connection and loyalty of your people to your company as you help them grow.

Image courtesy of Neil Carey via Compfight
Hal Halladay
Hal Halladay previously served as co-founder and CEO of technology start-up Smi.sh, a platform for apps that combines friends, files, feeds, apps and favorites. Halladay's career started on Wall Street, where he completed various corporate finance transactions as an investment banker for seven years. Subsequently, he has served as an executive at various technology companies for the past 13 years, where he developed and executed strategic initiatives for dynamic growth businesses. Hal was president and chief executive officer of North Sky, Inc., which grew to become a top-50 web site and was later acquired by About.com, where he served as general manager for About Web Services. Halladay received an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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