Are You a Leader Part 2: Creating an Ecosystem of Talent

Are you talented?

Do you see talent in yourself, and more importantly in others?

Those are questions which require true reflection and should be taken seriously. If you are reading our articles then you are likely already successful or are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone either in an MBA program or through improving your professional self. To be a high-achiever you will need to answer those difficult questions. We will help you develop your answers below.

In this article, we will give our definitions of talent and how to build an ecosystem of talent.

In the first part of this series, we explained traditional filters of talent (education) are not always accurate. Finding talent becomes a skill and you will want to be around the people who have legitimate personal brands.

Also, don’t neglect individuals who are destined to have strong reputations because of their talents. These are likely your peers and can become your colleagues, business partners, eventual investors, and most importantly they could become lifelong friends.

Take the insights from the first article and what you find below to develop yourself into a talented leader. Doing so will allow you to reach goals you might have thought were impossible, yet a strong ecosystem of talented people helping you will almost guarantee you success.

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How do You Define Talent?

Matt:

Alejandro will explain how talent is varied and he is absolutely correct. Talent can be seen in all people and exemplified in different ways. Since Alejandro will cover the diversity of talent, I want to go a different route.

Talent, to me, is mainly the ability to adapt. I meet skilled people all the time, i.e. they can do certain tasks well or even at an expert level, yet they struggle when they are not in their ideal element. These people have skills and are extremely important; however, a talented person who can adapt to changing circumstances can have an advantage.

Being adaptable allows you to change course, move over obstacles, learn new things, and take on challenges that scare others.

Here is an easy example I have heard from many executives. Someone fresh out of college or an MBA has a lot of technical abilities. They can build business models, do excellent market research, or conduct financial valuations. Where they struggle is creative problem solving or we could call this adapting to unforeseen issues.

The problem becomes when they are hired at a company and could be given a task where they are starting at X and need to move to Z, but do not know what Y is (i.e., how to get to Z). Figuring out Y takes adaptability, and what I define as talent. On the other hand, if they are told, “do X and Y to get to Z,” the technical person usually shines.

Life is rarely linear and the most talented are the ones who can solve problems, do research, try new things, and create something completely new. That is how I define talent.

Alejandro: 

Talent comes in different shapes and forms.

Every person you meet has a talent. The issue is that not everyone knows what their talents are.

If we don’t know what we are good at how do we know what skills we need to improve to be world-class at something?

Taking action and not letting fear paralyze you, as discussed in the previous article, are key steps to identifying your talents.

Once you have identified your talents then you can start giving shape to your idea of what a talented individual is. But it is key we remain flexible and open to the definition of talent of others.

I personally give a lot of value to discipline and commitment. Those are skills, or aptitudes, that I’ve worked hard to develop. When I see someone else with these skills I think of them as talented.

When someone does what they say they were going to do, by the time they said they would do it. When someone arrives on time (on time = at least 5 minutes early) to a commitment. I value those people because I know they value and respect the time of others.

Can there be someone talented who is not so disciplined as expected? Yes. But I have a “no excuses” mindset. Just because you are talented in something doesn’t allow you to disrespect other people’s time.

But I’ve also learned I have to appreciate the talents of others for what they are, not for what I expect them to be. There is a fine line of flexibility and tolerance we all have to walk to be able to work together and accomplish bigger things.

That being said, I strive to find and work with individuals who give value to discipline and commitment because I’ve identified that as a key element for taking successful actions.

And you should do the same. You should have a clear understanding of what your talents are, what are the talents you value in others, and work hard to put yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by that type of talent.

Values, Talents, and Environment are elements that must be aligned in order to create an ecosystem of meaningful connections and valuable contributions.

How to Find and Associate with Talented People

Matt:

This question relates to what Alejandro just explained, talent is everywhere when you have clear definitions. If you want to be around talent you really just need to have an open mind.

Don’t just look at job titles, education, or other classic notions of success which people label as talent. You are likely surrounded by amazing people who can teach you many things if you are willing to listen and notice what they possess.

When you realize everyone is talented your entire world becomes a school of higher education.

Start with your friends, what talent do they have which you would like to learn? Do you have a friend who can blend into any event and be the networking king (Alejandro!)? Do you have a friend who seems to fix any technology problem that comes their way (My Dad)? Do you have a friend who can make anyone smile (My Wife)?

All of these are talents you can possess if you are willing to learn, observe, and ask how they accomplish the characteristic you want to know.

Next move to mentors, Alejandro and I have discussed mentors at length, along with every successful person I have ever met. Both of us will discuss even more now. Simply put, personal mentors are the key to you reaching your goals. End of story. If you don’t know how to locate one then start with our series on finding mentors: part one and part two.

Finally, read books, again another cliche for a reason. Books give you insights into the minds of the most talented people of all time. I always wonder what the great thinkers would say if they knew you and I had access to essentially anything ever written and many people spend hours online looking at meaningless items.

Pew Research Center reported that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year."

Stop! Read that again. ~25% of American adults did not read a book last year. Are you kidding me? Books are the doorway to ideas, talents, and concepts we would never know unless people put them down on paper.

If you want to associate yourself with talent, then go to a library, jump on your Kindle, get Amazon Prime, or do something else to read and learn from exceptional minds. Here is our starter reading list of some of our favorite books for professionals.

BTW both Alejandro and I are, at the moment, reading Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Wow! The book is amazing, if you want to start somewhere to pick up talent essentials, look no further.

By now you should realize talent is all around you, take the time to learn from your friends, find a mentor, and read great books. Doing so will change your life and create an ecosystem of talent.

Alejandro:

Creating an ecosystem of talent and value is a great asset. And it will take a big investment of time to achieve it.

There are 3 key steps you have to take to be able to do so.

We all want to associate with talented people, but we first have to think about other people.

What do others want? They want ice cream!

And they want to associate with talented individuals.

The first step is dedicating time to becoming the most talented you can be. You have to be adding value to every person you meet.

Read books, pursue a graduate degree, get that certification, attend conferences. You have to invest a lot of your time in yourself, so you can become someone who is adding value constantly in every environment.

When was the last time you read a book? When was the last time you attended a conference? Or watched a TED Talk?

If you are not taking the steps to be talented, why would other talented people spend time with you? What’s in it for them?

Step 1: Become as talented as you can be, add value to every person you meet.

You can also get talented by osmosis.

Applying a hack that most people know, but not everyone applies.

Start reaching out to influencers and people who have been adding value to others for many years. Successful entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, Presidents of organizations.

It will take time, you will have to attend events, and send a lot of emails and thank you cards. And most of the time you won’t get a response. It’s OK, that is part of the process. But once you get a response, it will all be worth it.

Having a mentor is a real-life hack to success. Put the time and effort to build those relationships. In this article, you will be able to learn more specific and tactical actions that will help you develop those relationships.

Step 2: Find mentors and take the time to build those relationships.

Something very interesting happens when you start doing.

Without worrying about the results, without a transactional mindset. Just taking action, and learning from every step taken.

Not talking, but walking.

The things you previously thought were almost impossible (like writing a weekly blog post, or posting videos) will become routine. People will start noticing your efforts. And they will ask for your insights and advice on how to get started too.

Make the most out of those opportunities. Give back.

Step 3: Give back, become a mentor.

Summary 

Believe in yourself, you are talented. Take the time to discover what you are good at, and then work as hard as you can on improving those talents as much as you can.

Find others who are talented and ask for their advice. And then act on it. Also don't forget to give advice, if someone asks for it.

Being world-class at something is possible, but it will not be easy. It will require dedication and commitment, but once you do it you will be grateful. It will be worth it.

We’ve given you some information about things you can start doing today to develop and identify talent. You can already start creating an ecosystem of value.

We want to take it a bit further and share with you more specific and tactical information. In the next article of this series, we will share with you some of the habits we’ve developed, and also some we have eliminated to develop our talents.

For example, how to read books consistently to be on the top of your field and how can we be more disciplined.

You will learn how to take small steps within your path of success.

This is a series of articles by Alejandro I. Sanoja and Matt Avery, see our past articles here.