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Do you manage talented people who underperform?

Talent is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent
By John C. Maxwell, 2007
Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville TN

We like it for a different reason

John C. Maxwell has written an interesting self-help book. We're not usually fans of such books, but we like this one for a differnt reason. It offers tools managers of people long on talent and short on results can use. Before we get to this common and often perplexing management challenge, a little about the book.

The staple of self-help books is the list and the formula. In this case Maxwell presents the reader with a list of 13 things on which the talented person struggling to bring that talent to bear on things that make a difference, business results for instance, should focus. It’s a great list, pieces of which we have all seen in one form or another. The combination, and what Maxwell has to say about each in concert with the others, is the formula. As we would expect from a best-selling author like Maxwell, the list and concepts are presented in an engaging way, with questions, anecdotes and quotes that bring the them to life. All this is why this book will help those who find it.

Managers know seekers aren't always the ones who need help the most

In our opinion, there-in lies the problem for us as managers and leaders. This book may never be found, or may not be found as soon as it might be, by many of the people we manage who need it most. By his own argument, Maxwell suggests that successful talented people know they have a lot to learn and are seekers. They “practice to sharpen” their talent. They “persevere to sustain” their talent. And they are “teachable”. We would argue that those talented people who work for us and are struggling, particularly early in their careers, may not be seekers.

As managers and leaders we all have talented people whose performance falls short of what we would expect given their talent. While managers aren’t the direct target for this book, we certainly can benefit from it. Maxwell’s list and formula give us a basis for assessing talented-but-struggling people and the starting point for discussions with them. For people early in their careers, such discussions can be the kind of mentoring necessary to put them on the right track for the long haul. For others, such discussions can be the kind of positive interventions that help a person through a rough patch in their work life. In both situations these discussions can be part of protecting our investments in people and driving sustained business results with their consistent efforts.

For each of us as individual managers and leaders, the book provides a good reminder of many of the things we already practice and a fresh framework within which to think about them.

Talent is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent
By John C. Maxwell, 2007
Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville TN

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