Focus on Talent

Makenzie Rath Makenzie Rath

June 04, 2020 Articles

The best organizations require the best leaders. Sounds simple and it certainly makes sense, right? With the disruption we are experiencing today, it’s critical that leaders, and those they lead, live up to the talents central to their organization’s success while: 

  • Delivering on the needs of team 
  • Focusing on the moment as well as the future, and
  • Stewarding the organization 

Top leaders allow organizations to not only survive, but thrive during times like we find ourselves in. As well, they create a legacy by leveraging the collective talent, resources, support and empowerment available. As we have interacted with client partners in a variety of industries, the pandemic has given many the time to focus on development and recognition. 

COVID didn’t change an employee’s need to be recognized, a need to be able to talk with their leader about what they are experiencing, what they are seeing on their team or  what they may need. It simply changed the medium for that conversation. Most leaders weren’t hired to be virtual. Overnight, we transformed from eight to twelve percent of individuals working virtually to over seventy-five percent. Whether in person or via technology, in good times or difficult, it is increasingly important to double-down on individual development and recognition.

As leaders scrutinize their budgets and determine what is going on inside their organizations; they are thinking about constraining programs to weather the storm. The signal this sends to employees is a dangerous one – we are willing to keep you, but we are not willing to invest in you. 

Over the last seven years, we have conducted a series of studies on the intersection of talent and engagement. We know when leaders have higher levels of talent, they can drive 36% higher engagement. The best leaders are able to amplify and meet people’s needs. We have assessed over 330,000 managers giving us insight to what makes successful managers successful.

Leaders must consider those they lead and how to connect with them. Be visible. Be intentional in connecting with individuals so they know you care and are being responsive to what they are saying. One of Talent Plus’ leaders, Larry Sternberg, co-author of Managing to Make A Difference: How to Engage, Retain & Develop Talent for Maximum Performance, has a rule that when someone tells him they need something, he works to get it accomplished within a week. If not, he goes back to them to explain why it hasn’t been resolved and what he’s doing to make it happen. 

As organizations constrain their workforce, they will need higher levels of productivity and engagement from those who remain. Most often, what people need is not incredibly complicated, unreachable or unattainable. They may simply want to know their manager is really listening to them. This means active listening, being humble and taking the time to fully appreciate what is being said. Provide encouragement that you’ve understood, what you are going to do about it and thank them for sharing their question or concern. This pulls them in to the organization’s mission, vision, purpose and values, as well as work ethic. Most see how hard things are right now and they want to contribute. 

This is more important today than ever before as people face pressures from health concerns to ones of psychological and economic impact; as well as pressures from work or home.

Find opportunities that allow individuals to stretch so they feel they are being developed and not simply mired in the day-to-day. The best leaders are not simply engaging in mass communication but individualizing their message. Focus on all individuals in a way that is meaningful and impactful, emphasizing the value they’re adding to the organization today – from the front line to the senior most leaders. 

Whether you lead virtually or in person, ask your team members and then really listen:

  1. “What do you need from me to help you?”
  2. “What is one thing I/we could do to improve your life today?”
  3. “How would you like to see your talents better positioned to help the team/our organization?”
  4. “How can I help you lean into your talents?” 

Really listen and what you hear will make an immeasurable difference for them and for you.


Makenzie Rath

Makenzie Rath

Makenzie is the President of Talent Plus where each day, she leads with a focus on our mission, “We know every person has talent.” Through supporting and partnering with our colleagues and client partners, Talent Plus works to create a world where people do what they are good at and enjoy.

“Talent Plus is positioned for unprecedented success and growth because we have the premier science in the industry alongside extraordinary colleagues.”

Talents: Focus, Intelligence, Individualized Approach, Conceptualization, Persuasion

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