Step Out of the Shade and Into Your Talents



“Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
Benjamin Franklin


I drive my sister crazy with all of the questions I ask people that I meet. But, if one of my life’s missions to to help people understand what they are good at, then my questions must remain. [Note to sis: Coleen, I love you, but I’ve got to keep on keeping on with my questions!]

By paying attention and asking the right questions, you will likely discover many hidden talents among your leaders, peer, team members, family members, friends, volunteers, yourself.

Many leaders are in a situation know where they cannot hire more talent. Why not ask the following four questions of the talent you currently have to determine how to maximize your resources?



Turn a compliment into an interview.

  • Congratulate an employee on a job well done; then, ask exactly what helped her succeed. By better understanding her process, you may uncover an unseen strength.


2. Ask why employees prefer certain tasks or projects.

  • Preferences can provide insight into someone’s talents. An employee might enjoy a project because it involves a product he cares about or because it gave him a chance to interact with customers directly or because… Knowing which will possibly uncover talents.

3. Inquire about dreams.

  • Ask your employee what she would do if she had her career to do over again. Dreams often include an aspect of someone that she doesn’t regularly share.

 4. Analyze how people think, not just what they do.

  • This one is my favorite. What is behind accomplishments is a way of thinking, particular to an individual, that made success possible. Ask your team member to walk you through his thought process on how he arrived at a solution. Articulating this dimension of how his mind works will help you — and your team member– identify the other projects that require his inductive talents. It will l also show him that you truly understand the value of his contributions.

I will also suggest that you consider asking these questions of yourself. I know a number of people in the midst of a job search, and they feel at wit’s end with what to do next. I am hopeful that these questions may be a source of freeing your thoughts to find what it is that truly inspires you.

Adapted from Steven DeMaio’s How to Identify Your Employees’ Hidden Talents. 24 June 2009

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