The Talent Paradox


The ultimate paradox is that oxygen gives us life with one hand and takes it away with the other. We need oxygen to breathe but it is oxidation that is responsible for the ageing process. Science is full of great paradoxes, self-contradictory arguments and logically impossible situations from Einstein’s theories about space and time, to the latest ideas of neutrinos in quantum physics.

Paradoxes come in all shapes and sizes, some real and some imagined. Our brains are illusion creating computers. We see what we choose to focus on. A waterfall can appear still, frozen in time by our mind. We can turn a millpond into a turbulent sea. Our interpretation of the world around us may have more in common with the impossible than the real.

In our everyday lives we are constantly wrestling with mind expanding paradoxes. Many paradoxes can be resolved by careful consideration of their underlying assumptions. Seeing the same thing but from a different place.

Our job as a coach is to challenge our client’s assumptions. To hold the space for the client to think about their thinking. To imagine other possibilities. What could be different? What new paths lead the way forward? Something that may appear counterintuitive might reveal a fundamental truth. Insights from these powerful truths provide the self-knowledge to resolve what on the surface seems to be paradoxical.

To unravel the mysteries of paradox we need to have powerful conversations. Take the talent paradoxfor instance.

We all know that organisations need talented individuals to lead them forward. But we also know that employee engagement is vitally important to their success and sustainability. The paradox then is that engagement and talent are mutually exclusive. How can you engage everyone if you single out individuals for special treatment? For every selection there is a deselection. For every winner there must be a loser. The reality is that everyone wants to be engaged but not everyone wants the pressure of expectation.

Balance rather than competition is what is required. Developing talent one conversation at a timeshould be a team sport where everyone benefits. Everyone can be a leader; and everyone can be a coach.

Quality relationships based on quality leading by coaching conversations are the key to heathy individuals and healthy organisations.

It turns out that the talent paradox isn’t a paradox at all.


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