Talent and Fit: the Link to Performance

In my earlier post, I discussed the background of my 7 Factors model for driving performance to the exemplary level. Although there is no particular order to the 7 Factors, I will discuss the Talent and Fit factor first.

This factor consists of two separate but similar items so let’s start with a few definitions. The first part of this factor is talent which consist of the innate abilities one has as a function of their genetic and psychological makeup. These are the things that are hardwired into our brains, are the way that we are physically structured, and includes our personality. For example, I may have an aptitude for math and just understand calculus formulas almost effortlessly. The other part of this factor is fit. This is where we prefer to use those talents. For example, I may have a great talent for sales but dislike the products and services of my company.

Where performance is concerned, the part talent and fit plays is largely determined by the nature of the job. If a job requires a person to write technical documents, she should have the talent to do that and prefer to use those talents within her organization. Other jobs may just require basic abilities that are easily taught so talent and fit is not so much of a causative factor.

The talent and fit factor is often the first thing leaders look at when performance is lacking. Too often in my career, I have heard leaders say that a person is not the right fit. I have also heard them say that a certain person lacks the ability to perform at a higher level. This is really code for “I have no idea what to do” or “I don’t want to take the time to figure out how to help this person”. Later, when that person is transferred to a new leader, he often performs much better. This shows us that talent and fit was not the real issue to begin with.

When looking at what drives performance it’s important that we take into account the person’s innate abilities and their preference for exercising those abilities within our organization. Even though I start with talent and fit, it is often the last factor that’s to blame for lack of exemplary performance. It’s also the factor with the fewest remedies. If talent and fit is the factor that’s truly a play, all we can do is change the job itself to leverage the person’s talents, move them to a new job that leverages their talents, or, in the most severe cases, get rid of them. So when using this factor to gauge performance it’s important that you take into account all it’s going on with the other  factors first.

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