Several years ago I decided to take up tennis. I have always considered tennis to be the sport with the cutest outfits and I was excited to learn! The tennis courts in the neighborhood my husband and I had just moved into were beautiful and we thought tennis would be something fun we could do together.
We approached the sport with a sense of enthusiasm and excellent intentions. We invested in some equipment; scheduled time to practice together and even signed up to play on a few beginner teams. I thought it would be perfect: We get to spend time together, we get exercise, we get to hang with friends… it was an excellent plan!
There was only one problem: My lack of tennis talent. And it proved to be a big problem.
Neither of us had ever played in a league, yet we noticed a huge difference immediately. Denis had a talent for tennis. I did not.
Everyone has talent—for something. Every single person in the world has a short list of things they are really good at. These are our talents and they define who we are, what we do, how we work, where we succeed, and why we’re valuable.
Just as all of us have a short list of talents, we also have a long list of non-talents. Whenever possible, we should avoid doing things that require talents we don’t have, and other people would be wise to avoid asking us to do them as well. When it came to tennis, I was asking myself to use a talent I didn’t have.
You Can’t Fix Weaknesses in Business or in Tennis
The key point here is that people do not succeed based on their weaknesses. That may seem obvious, but it’s important to reiterate: We will never progress or get ahead by leaning on our weaknesses—or by trying to fix our weaknesses.
The same is true for managing people. Our job as managers is not to try to put in what nature left out, but to bring out what nature put in. In fact, we can get 10 times better when we’re using our talents, but we will struggle and struggle to get even 10 percent better if we rely on our weaknesses. Even when our desire to improve is strong… we still struggle because it is just not natural.
Do you have sellers on your team who are struggling right now? Take a deeper look. Is it a lack of talent or a lack of training? Do they lack the desire to sell? Do they seem frustrated? Do they see it as a chore rather than a challenge? These are indicators of non-talent.
Recognize When You Don’t Have the Talent
I struggled with tennis. I started to dread practice and matches. It started to feel overwhelming, like a chore I had to complete. I tried and tried, but I didn’t improve much. I kept getting more and more frustrated. I remember Denis once saying to me, “Don’t you have a feeling of where the ball is going to go?” My answer? “No. No, I don’t. I wait until someone hits it and then I run as fast as I can to try and return it. I have zero ‘feeling’ on where that stupid yellow ball is headed.” These were among the indicators of my lack of tennis talent.
Do you have others on your team who are excelling? Are they rapidly learning new skills and developing/growing? Are you seeing glimpses of excellence? Do they seem to gain a sense of satisfaction from their role? These are among the indicators of Talent.
If you have talent on your team and you add training and tactics, you are likely to get a huge return on your investment of time. Your sellers will grow, develop, and flourish; it is almost limitless what they can accomplish.
If you have people on your team who lack sales talent, all the time you’re spending coaching and training them is not going to make much difference. Without the innate talent, the training lacks impact. All those training efforts are just not going to yield a big return. You will still have a below-average player. It’s not just in sports. It’s true in sales and it’s true in almost every human endeavor.
Talent Trumps Desire
It’s not enough just to devote time to practice (not even 10,000 hours!). You need talent. Take a close look at your team. Who are your A players? What natural talents and characteristics are they bringing to the table? Who are your C players? What are they lacking? Talent or training? You can give them training, but you can’t give them talent.
It’s smart to spend most of your time with your star players, yet most managers spend the majority of their time with their strugglers. Pause and reflect. Make a list and see where you are garnering a return on your coaching time. You may learn that some players really deserve more of your attention, while others really should take themselves out of the game. I can assure you I am much happier not playing tennis. Going against our natural ability just doesn’t feel good—not for the player and not for the coach.