When my son was in grade school, he had a high IQ for basketball facts and stats but had very poor grades going into the 3rd grading period. So I decided to speak to him in a metaphorical way. “Son,” I said, “we are going into the third quarter and you are way behind in score. The only way to win this game is to rally with lots of interceptions and 3-pointers. “ He didn’t say anything. But…
Weeks later, the teacher reported that my son made a dramatic recovery in class. I was also glad she didn’t complain that my son came to school wearing basketball shorts.
My son got the task done by creating the illusion that he was doing what he really liked to do. I have also seen trade launches wherein salespeople are motivated through pretend roles. For example, soldiers invading a market territory or athletes who must win Olympic golds. In the real world, the best way to get peak performance is to make people do what they are born to do. In many sad cases, people fail because they have jobs they don’t even like.
Sir Ken Robinson is an English educator world famous for his radical thoughts. In his book The Element, he narrated the story of Gillian Lynne. As a girl, Gillian was a “failure” in class and she always disturbed her classmates because she moved about the room too much. A psychologist noted that Gillian was a person who needed to move in order to think. “Gillian isn’t sick,” the psychologist said, “she is a dancer. “ Gillian was promptly enrolled in a special dance class. As an adult, she met Andrew Lloyd Webber and created with him the Broadway musicals Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
The book also cited the confession of Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. He admitted he was “a total void in academic work” before he became one of the world’s most accomplished rock drummers.
Robinson likewise revealed the story of Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons. Matt was actually doing fine in school. But because he was always bored in class and was not dreaming to become among the “ grown-ups with briefcases going into office buildings,” he just drew and drew and drew a lot.
Lynne, Fleetwood and Groening are lucky to have found their “Element”. According to Robinson, “the Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. “ He also said, “when we are in our Element, we feel we are doing what we are meant to be doing and being who we’re meant to be."
Robinson added, “if we can each find our Element, we all have the potential for much higher achievement and fulfillment…understanding this changes everything."
Photo by Johnny Delos Santos
I think that the Element is similar to what Liz Wiseman describes as “native genius."
Liz Wiseman, former executive at Oracle, has been named one of the top 10 leadership thinkers in the world. In her book Multipliers, she advised that leaders should be able “to uncover and access the native genius of others. Native genius “is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily (without extra effort) and freely (without condition.)”
Wiseman believes that employees tapping into their native genius “go beyond what is required and offer their full intelligence.”
This is Wiseman’s prescription on how to detect people’s native genius:
What they do better than anything else they do
What they do better than the people around them
What they do without effort
What they do without being asked
What they do readily without being paid
Some of us have been fortunate enough to find job descriptions that we would write ourselves if God gave us the permission. I know account executives who are naturally gifted at social skills. I know schoolteachers who know in their hearts that they were born to teach. Many engineers used to love playing with blocks or tinkering with their toys.
If some people in the office are not excelling in a particular position, they may still shine and amaze everyone if moved to a different function. Many years ago, one of the copywriters in our ad agency complained that her partner art director was not a conceptual thinker. Our boss agreed but he also noted this art director’s flair for typography and lay-out. We changed our expectations from him and he delighted all of us!
Many employees today are just misplaced and therefore unappreciated.
In Sir Ken Robinson’s book, he disclosed that both Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley were turned away by their respective school choirs. Later on, the world would learn that their incompatibility with the choir was just a matter of style.
Although it is only fair to be judged on the basis of what we signed up for, it is also a good idea for boss and subordinate to discuss possibilities of reassignment. Human Resource executives agree that the right job fit “changes everything.”
In our company today, we have a corporate university with various courses available to staffers. We think this is a good way of discovering untapped potential as well as enhancing talents that have already been identified.
To know your element, answer the question Dr. Robinson wants you to ask yourself: if left to my own devices –if I didn’t have to worry about making a living or what others thought of me –what am I most drawn to doing?
When you find your element, you may astonish a lot of people, including yourself.
My son did not become a professional basketball player. When I asked him to imagine school as a basketball game, he discovered his interest for make-believe. Right now he is a writer for TV. We both hope he’s on the right path.
LETTER TO http://www.robertlabayen.com/
Is this the personal mission I can live for?
I used to work in real estate. The pay was good and I enjoyed working with a cohesive and fun team. But I didn’t see myself working in that field long-term.
I am now a marketing communication officer in a mall. I enjoyed it initially because it is more in line with my education. I am happy that my job allows me to be creative.
However, I am not sure if this is already the personal mission I can live for happily. Right now I am doing this mostly for family. I always remind myself that what I’m doing now is part of my training for greater success.
Dear Miss B.,
I know that many of us accept any job available because opportunities are scarce and we have to help the family. That’s why my article didn’t wish to put too much pressure on people. I know somebody who first worked in a call center. After earning enough to help her parents, she worked with me as a writer. The pay was a bit lower but it gave her a greater sense of fulfillment.
To some people, the recognition of a personal mission may come later in life. Don’t be in a hurry but keep thinking of what your heart truly wants.
I have this suggestion on how you can be happier in your present job: be the most creative that you can be. Imagine yourself to be the boss of your department of even the owner of the mall. What would you do? What events would you mount? What store display would you like to see? How will you delight the shoppers? I am sure that your supervisor will not resent your bright ideas.
Give it your best. And maybe it will prove to be the job and mission that’s really meant for you.
If you have concerns about your job or if you wish to suggest a topic, you may email me at [email protected]
I would assume that you’re giving me permission to publish your email (if chosen) and my reply. Your identity will not be disclosed.
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About the Author:
Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.