Talent Whisperers are those of us who quietly, typically in one-on-one conversations, work to develop others. We exist in the form of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, sports coaches, qi gong masters, managers, mentors, advisors, friends, and executive coaches. If we do our job well, the recipients of the coaching will enjoy growth and helping others grow. That impact is often best quietly whispered in private interactions through advice, encouragement, challenges, and powerful questions.

Having been a manager, director, VP for 28 years including unicorn IPOs and acquisitions as well as having been a sports coach, teacher, horse whisperer and parent, I’ve had some amazing experiences with very talented people in teams in repeatedly achieving success.

Developing talent can come in the form of working with individuals or teams as well as organizational processes and structures that enhance leveraging and developing talent. This emphasis here starts with the individual as each team, organization, business is comprised of a collection of individuals. However, the structure and processes of an organization also need to develop to become a more effective framework for the collection of individuals to achieve success.

Relevant information presented here in the form of blog posts and reference links comes from learning over years of experience in coaching, teaching and managing but also from benefiting from knowledge and research presented by many others in the form of books.

There is a wealth of self-improvement information out there. If you’re hoping to leverage it to become a 10xer and have 10x the impact of a “normal” human being, I’ll argue you’re thinking way too small. If you go a step further, you might consider how you could find, recruit, inspire and develop 10 10xers to be on your team; you’re now looking at a 100x impact. Build a team of 10 leaders/Talent Whisperers that each could develop 10 10xers and you’re talking about a 1,000x impact…

It’s been said that for venture funds to provide sufficient return on investment to warrant the risks that will lead 90% or more of those investments to fail, they need the occasional unicorn. A company that returns 100x or even 1,000x the original investment to become a $1B or more company. Having been through two unicorn IPOs and one unicorn acquisition, I’ve seen some of the underlying contributing factors that can, with some luck, combine to result in a unicorn exit ($1B+).

Carol Dweck explains in Mindset – The New Psychology of Success

We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes
who were born different from us.
We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people
who made themselves extraordinary.”

Paul G. Stoltz tells us in his book Put Your Mindset to Work

Ability to persevere begins with you, the individual.
However, change is rarely easy. In fact, sometimes it is downright formidable.

Daniel Coyle premise in The Talent Code is that

Greatness isn’t born, it’s grown.

Liz Wiseman in “Multipliers, How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” helps leaders appreciate how they can multiply the impact of those they lead, but also be ‘accidental diminishers’ that dis-empower those we lead by not create the space, opportunity and encouragement:

Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex
of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.

We tend read these books more with a focus on self-improvement often overlooking the greater leverage we can gain by developing the leadership talent that developers the raw talent on their teams, in our companies and/or in the classroom.

In an effort to understand if managers matter and how, Google initiated Project Oxygen collecting information from employee surveys, who received top manager awards, performance reviews, etc resulting in over 10,000 observations of managerial behavior. One should always remember that the challenges facing one organization and the solutions to those challenges are often unique in some form to that organization – what google discovered and what works for them is primarily relevant to Google, but may serve as food for thought for others.

Project Oxygen’s outcome ended with eight things great managers do:

  1. Be a good coach.
  2. Empower; don’t micromanage.
  3. Be interested in direct reports, success and well-being.
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

There are many factors contributing to building success. It can involve finding a disruptive offering which has been looked at in such books as Innovator’s Dilemma. It can benefit from the processes of understanding how to iterate to solutions that discover what customers want and build to that end have been explored in such books as The Lean Startup. Some of the learnings of those insights will also be shared here, but the primary focus is on developing talent and leaders of talent.

Framing styles of leadership in the fish story:

  • Level 1 leading – The Micromanager – tells them what to do – gives them a fish. There are some leaders that can be surprisingly effective in this mode if they happen to be experts at what they do, fast on their feet and full of energy. I’ve seen successful VPs operate at this level.
  • Level 2 leading – The Instructor – shows them how to do it – teaches them to fish. Now they can repeat the task themselves.
  • Level 3 guiding – The Eye-Opener – bestows the grit, confidence and experiences, insight and tools allowing them to solve whatever may come – teaches them to learn so they might obtain various forms of food.
  • Level 4 guiding – The Leader of Leaders – enables/teaches others to become level 2. 3 and 4 leaders.

Level 3 and above leadership empowers, inspires, grows and scales teams and organizations.

Level 1 and 2 leadership often leads to under-utilize or diminish the potential of members of their team.

Blog – Talent Whisperers – Developing Masters of Leadership