Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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Great managers know that fairy tales never happen

A common movie storyline in the one where the underdog gets inspired to work extra hard at something they have been struggling at.  Our hero is struggling as a dancer with two left feet or is a pilot almost washed out of flight school and then something happens to magically inspire them to work harder.  We then flash through a series of scenes of them practicing harder then everyone else and then they win the competition or become a top gun.

Great managers know that these truly are fairy tales.  It doesn’t happen this way.  The real fairy tales happen not when someone is inspired to try harder at something that has always been difficult for them, but when people get engaged doing things that they were always meant to do.

Truly engaging managers all share these beliefs:

  1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
  2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.

Acting from these beliefs is the basis for true improvement in employee engagement, one person at a time.

Mary Robertson Moses was born on a farm in New York State, she showed talents and interest in sketching as a young child but this was pushed aside by a tough farming life until she was 78 years old.  Freed from farming by retirement Mary became a prolific painter.  By the time she died 23 years later, she had become a famous painter, known around the world as Grandma Moses.  She had a hidden talent all her life and when her circumstances changed she was able to hone this built-in talent into a true skill.  Could you or I do this just because we were hyper-motivated?  No!  Talent is required.  We will likely never be a Grandma Moses no matter how hard we work at it.

Grandma Moses mural.HoosickFallsIn my daily practice as an engaging manager my most powerful tool is looking at the talents and weaknesses of each of my team mates and changing things around step by step to try and make mini fairy tales happen.   Yes hard work is required to succeed.  The thing is I try to make sure that the hard work is happening in an area where the person is going to see rapid progression in their skills and feel great about what they are doing, not being constantly reminded that they are not interested in or not good at something.