I recently had the privilege of speaking at the New Leaders Council Annual Retreat in Washington, DC. One of the other speakers was Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama.
In her informal talk, she said, “Talent is ubiquitous and opportunities are few.” I agree with the first part of her statement and want to challenge the second. If “opportunities” means positions, like an elected or non-elected official or a manager or supervisor, I agree. However, if it includes the opportunities we can create for people to make contributions at work or in their communities, I disagree.
How we interact with people every day can make opportunities as ubiquitous as people’s talents. For instance, if you are a manager or supervisor and an employee brings you an issue to solve, do you like to play the hero and solve it? Or, do you use this interaction as an opportunity for them to contribute or develop their talent? You can do this by asking questions such as
- What do you think is the real issue? What do you think are the factors causing it?
- Have your talked with others about how they see it?
- What solutions are you considering? Which ones are you inclined to try?
- What do you hope to achieve in solving this? What are your concerns?
- What might you need from others or me to move forward?
Or, maybe you sit on a neighborhood council and a few residents come to you in a similar vein, expecting you to solve a problem. Might similar questions create an opportunity for them?
In meetings at work or in our communities, do we call meetings to announce decisions or do we convene them to invite others to make decisions with us or on their own? If you think talent is ubiquitous, how might you use whatever role you are in to create ubiquitous opportunities for others to express their talents?
In addition to helping others express their talents, don’t hide yours! How might you better contribute your own? I don’t know of any organizations or communities that couldn’t use more of us contributing our talents to the cause while opening opportunities for others.
As Jarrett spoke to the room of young leaders she encouraged them to step up and find or create opportunities to offer their talents to the world. Let’s encourage one another to do the same.