Releasing the Genius in the Bottle
In Aladdin, our hero gets granted three wishes by the Genie in the bottle. If you had three wishes as a Millennial leader, what would they be? Maybe you don’t want to be a prince or princess, and I hope you don’t need to be saved from drowning (literally and metaphorically!) but what about being able to unlock the true potential and genius of your entire team.
How can you turn this from a magical wish to an operational reality that will have a significant impact on your people, customers and bottom line?
Part of being a leader is to help people find their purpose and value. This has always been true, but it seems more so now than ever. A job is not just an ‘8 to 6’ (Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ is a pipedream for most of us), way of paying the bills, but a part of who we are – integral to our life. And that means our values need to be aligned and we need to feel like we are adding value.
The challenge for you as a Millennial Leaders is that there’s Boomers to the left of you and Gen Zers to the right – and you are stuck in the middle. How do you get the best out of people who have potentially differing values that their work needs to satisfy? How do you help the diversity of people you lead find value, and opportunities to add value?
One answer can be found in Native Genius.
Multiplier leaders believe that everyone is brilliant at something. If you believe that, then the role of the leader becomes to identify what it is they are brilliant at (their Native Genius) and provide opportunities to put it to use.
Native Genius is described by Liz Wiseman in her book Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter as not just something that people do exceptionally well, but naturally. They do it better than anything else they do, without extra effort and without condition. Doing it without condition means they usually don’t need to be asked, which is the key to unlocking discretionary effort.
Some people know their Native Genius and others don’t – a Multiplier leader helps those that don’t identify it, and those that do, to put it to better use. They do this by continually and carefully observing their people:
- What do they do better than anything and anyone else?
- What do they do easily, without effort?
- What do they do freely, without being asked – or even paid?
If a leader can help their people find their Native Genius, label it and put it to use, then there is the potential for amazing things to happen. If I have opportunities to do what I’m naturally good at, I can contribute more and so feel more valued. I feel happier doing something I have a passion for and the business benefits by getting more from me – which goes straight to the bottom line.
One thing that is true is that, whoever we are and whatever we do, we want to feel value and that we’re adding value; that our work has meaning and purpose…
Consider a Millennial leader who may have some Boomers in their team. How do they lead people who are more knowledgeable and experienced than themselves? Find their Native Genius. It could be their ability to see problems and risks or their ability to drive cross-departmental collaboration from years of building connections, it could be their ability to challenge current thinking or data analytics. Equally, it could be leading someone younger – a Gen Zer. What is their Native Genius? It could be their customer empathy or tech expertise or entrepreneurial spirit. Frankly, it could be anything for anyone. It doesn’t matter about age or any other factor – find the genius and put it to work.
When people are connected with opportunities that play to their natural strengths, those people shine and the results are far reaching. They find value and purpose in their role, business outcomes are achieved and you as a leader have achieved the ultimate goal of delivering through others.
Identifying roles and tasks that will utilise and extend peoples genius often involves finding novel ways of doing so – thinking beyond formal structures and processes. And it’s an ongoing process – talents develop and emerge over time; this isn’t a one-off pigeon-holing exercise – it’s about continually evolving as the team changes.
Millennial leaders can lead anyone if they believe everyone is brilliant at something. They help people find it and put it to good use. Imagine the impact of everyone optimising their talents! That really would let the genie out of the bottle!