Acres of Diamonds at Work
By Ron Price
an old story about a fellow in the ancient world, who upon learning
about diamonds, sold his successful farm and spent his fortune
traveling the world in search of the gems. Several years after he
died, having never found the diamonds he sought, others discovered
the largest diamond mine ever found in Africa—on the farm he sold to
begin his quest.
a moment, let’s pretend there was a special machine that took a
retina scan of every employee in your business and, based on this
scan, it could tell you exactly what each employee was capable of
becoming in the future. You could then create a customized
development program that resulted in the most profitable and
fulfilling use of every employee in your business. Would you use
such a machine, if it were available?
leaders often discover an internal conflict between taking care of
the immediate concerns of the business and a longing to “do it
right” and manage more strategically for long term success.
Beleaguered executives often confess that even if they did have a
perfectly clear picture of the best way to develop and manage their
people, current circumstances wouldn’t allow it.
has revealed that mediocre supervisors work under the assumptions
1) everyone should be able to learn how to do a job with training,
2) the greatest employee growth is realized by focusing the
employee’s areas of weakness.
contrast, exceptional supervisors assume that,
1) everyone has unique and enduring talents and,
2) a person’s greatest potential lies in developing their areas of
managers constantly look for ways to develop and leverage each
employee’s strengths rather than getting trapped in trying to fix
weaknesses. Business leaders serious about identifying, developing
and deploying talent understand that in today’s world getting the
right people doing the right things is the most important
differentiator in any successful business. How they understand and
manage people should come before thinking about how they will
effectively compete in the marketplace.
business leaders, this is a difficult shift in mindset to make.
After all, business leaders are normally measured by annual revenue,
stock value, earnings, or the organization’s credit rating—all
“hard” financial measures of success. These “hard metrics” are easy
for business leaders to think they can control and manipulate
through decision-making and the priorities they establish for their
organizations. On the other hand, understanding and deploying
talent is much more difficult and it requires more humility—it
doesn’t fit the “alpha male” concept of many leaders. How can we
balance the scales by creating equally compelling measurements for
identifying, hiring, developing, and optimizing talent?
isn’t a retina scan that measures potential and illuminates the most
effective pathway to success. But it’s getting closer. The
convergence of psychometrics with job benchmarking is opening up new
methods to identify deeper reservoirs of potential in people.
Exceptional leaders have experienced breakthroughs in performance by
asking three simple questions:
1) What talent patterns is this job asking for in order to achieve
superior performance? There are specific activities, rewards, and
evaluative judgment patterns that result in superior performance for
every job. By defining these in detail, business leaders can
develop a profound clarity that will lead to superior performance.
This picture of what the job wants can be used to improve the hiring
process, create highly customized training and development
strategies, and pinpoint the most important performance management
issues for continuous improvement.
2) What natural talent patterns does this person bring to the job
and how should we leverage this talent? Every individual brings a
unique combination of behavioral tendencies, motivational biases,
and evaluative judgment inclinations to their work. When these fall
in relative alignment with what the job is asking for, superior
performance is practically inevitable (we call them, “a natural for
the position”). When there is mis-alignment between these talent
patterns and what the job is asking for, it doesn’t matter what
education or past experience the employee brings, there will always
be a struggle to perform at a superior level. This is the hard work
of managing others—to understand and leverage the strengths and to
work around or neutralize the weaknesses.
3) What is the most effective way to develop and focus each
person’s talent for success based on the alignment between the job
and the person? Diagnosis is 90% of the cure. If business leaders
can develop a laser-like focus of what a job is asking for and how
natural talent patterns relate to the job, then learn how to apply
this knowledge to leveraging strengths and neutralizing weaknesses,
they will begin to understand that their people represent one of the
greatest underutilized resources in the organization.
leaders think they are effective at identifying opportunities. They
pride themselves in their ability to understand the dynamics of the
marketplace, to develop products and services that create future
wealth, to build a loyal customer base, and to manage the financial
statements for increased net worth and cash flow. As savvy as these
leaders may be when it comes to markets, products, customers and
assets, they continually miss the greatest treasure of all. As a
result, they forfeit their own “acres of diamonds”.
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