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Whether in business or sports, assembling a team of talented individuals is a prerequisite for success. As the late, great Coach John Wooden put it "winning takes talent." But often those undertaking the trying task of identifying talent are left scratching their head as the next 'sure thing' turns into a bust. What went wrong? Most likely, it was one of the following three mistakes.

  1. Picked the wrong people. We include people in the process that we believe meet the criteria, and often they do. The problem here is that we did not identify the right criteria for the job. A second problem can occur in the selection process-we are often impressed with people based on personality or some other attribute that leads us to devalue the pertinent criteria. We become enamored with their personality, education, or experience-none of which may have adequately prepared them for the job at hand. Care must, therefore, be given to both the selection criteria and the selection process, if the right people are to be selected.

  2. Excluded the right people. A person may have the potential or the qualities we need, but we are either using the wrong selection criteria (see above) or we haven't structured the 'trial test' (e.g., interview, internship, try-out) in such a way that the results of the test correlate highly with the actual performance conditions. In other words, because a person doesn't 'test' well, doesn't mean they won't 'perform' well. This can also happen if we look at the person's past and don't see the results we hoped for (e.g., poor recommendations, or lackluster results) but fail to examine the conditions under which those results were generated. Once again, careful scrutiny of both the criteria and the process of testing the potential team members is often the solution to this common mistake.

  3. Put the right people in the wrong place. We select the right person because they have the requisite skills, knowledge, experience and ability to perform the tasks, but we create a work environment or task conditions that make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to perform to their abilities. Resources, expectations, or team culture may be the culprit here more than the individual themselves. It doesn't matter how much talent an individual may have, if they are put in conditions where that talent can bloom and prosper, there is little hope they will find success.

To succeed, you need the right people working in the right environment. Avoiding the three common mistakes in identifying talent will increase the likelihood that you and your team will find the winner's circle.


Larry Hart

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