Just Take A Lesson From The Voice
“It’s tough to find good talent and people that want to work hard in the world today.” I wish I had a dollar for every time that I hear this uttered by managers and so-called leaders in the business world over the course of my twenty-five-year career because it would have paid for a first class vacation to some fancy resort! Here’s the thing, the tell of a good leader is how skilled they are at bringing talent out in their team members. Managers use people’s talents, but leaders uncover and grow people’s talents. There is no better way to watch this process in action than by watching a season of the reality television show The Voice on NBC.
If you are not familiar with the show, it may come across as simply another reality television gimmick, but let me assure you it is much more than that. Each season begins with the blind auditions where pre-selected and screened talented singers perform in front of four musical celebrities. What’s different about these auditions is that the coaches can only hear, not see the contestants as they perform because their chairs are turned towards the audience and not the stage. Of course each coach wants to win the competition; however, what I love most about The Voice is watching as the talent continues to unfold and grow over the course of the show. This happens because the celebrity coaches and mentors are passionate about bringing out the talent in the contestants they choose to be on their teams. The Voice coaches are true leaders.
As I watch the show, I reflect upon my own ability to lead people throughout my career and have realized that, there are three strategies that served me well over the years..
Look for the Seen and Unseen
Resumes and cover letters are the traditional way of evaluating the talent of an individual, but they are becoming less effective in this digital age. Personally, I disregard both of these tools because I have found through experience, that paper never represents a person’s true talents and abilities. Yet, millions of individuals are passed over because of the way their paper credentials read: not enough education, not enough experience, not the right skillset are just some of the assessments that are often made. These sweeping pre-judgments eliminate what could potentially be an amazing candidate for the job. Like the coaches on The Voice, leaders, would be better suited to have “blind auditions” where candidates had to “perform” by providing examples of work they had previously done or responding to real world questions about a specific project or role. This type of questioning is usually reserved for the interview; however, why not make that part of the initial screening process? Implementing this kind of process allows the leader to look for the seen and the unseen. Just like the coaches on The Voice listen for the singing talent, they also listen for what they don’t hear– like attitude, confidence, passion and desire. Those talents are just as important, if not more important than singing ability. The same is true for an employee’s role in an organization. Real talent often lies beneath the surface and real leaders know how to uncover it.
I struggle with the word “coach” because it means so many things to so many people. However, that is what real leaders do – they coach. If you read anything about the best sports coaches, you will find they have one thing in common, a genuine desire to bring the best out in every person. Coaches take good talent and turn it into great talent by building upon what is already there. Similarly, on The Voice, each coach begins with the raw God-given singing talent of their team member and as the show unfolds, they nurture them like a farmer would nurture his crops. The coaches push their team members to step outside of their comfort zone by trying songs that push their voice in a different way, by sharing performance tips and showing them how to connect with their audience. They provide their team members with honest, constructive feedback about what’s working well and what’s not, effectively critiquing aspects of their singing performance that could be improved. Now that is what I call coaching! Those same actions can help bring out the talent in the workplace.
To bring out the talent in anyone, including yourself, it is critical to believe in the individual. And in order to believe, you must first and foremost care about the person. You must express a genuine selfless interest in helping them realize their dreams and goals. I love the celebrity coaches on The Voice because they are very passionate and have a genuine desire for their team members to grow and develop into amazing musical artists. The coaches often comment that the reason they continue to come back each year in the midst of their own busy singing careers is to be a part of making someone else’s dream comes true. Many of the contestants are chosen of course because the coach believes they are gifted with vocal talent, but they also believe that the contestant has the passion and desire to become something great. I liken it to the miner that finds the big hunk of coal and believes it will become a beautiful diamond one day. Most of the people I hired and led in my career were individuals who were passed over by other managers, but I believed they had something special. It is amazing what people can achieve when someone they respect and trust believes in them.
Next time you feel like there is a lack of talent in people pool, shift your focus to developing a candidate’s hidden talent by finding the unseen, coaching along the way and believing in their abilities. Just like the coaches on The Voice, you will be amazed by the transformation of people and you will also be personally energized and inspired by their success.