By George Dutch
Three groups of talents are often associated with people in supervisory positions: the initiators or developers - the people who come up with the vision and get the ball rolling; the planners and analyzers - the people who take that vision and make it a reality by planning on how to put the right elements in place, or improve upon what is already there; and the front-line managers or operations supervisors - the people who maintain it and keep the organizational crank turning efficiently and effectively. All three have a knack for dealing with conflicting priorities in organizations and for conflict resolution. These three groups make up about 30% of the workforce. Your clients can learn to do these things through training, but if they have a natural talent for supervision, they will have one of these three, which puts them in a category of 10% of the working population. This is one reason it is so difficult to find good managers. They are few and far between, and many supervisors/managers end up in jobs that don’t match their natural managerial talent. How can you help your clients determine if they are natural supervisors and, if they are, which particular kind of manager are they?
Developers & Initiators. This kind of talent likes to get things started. Listen for stories about starting up things—projects, enterprises, causes. Do others describe them as entrepreneurial? Why? What do they see your client doing that causes them to say this? They will be good at getting projects off the ground, or taking an existing enterprise and turning it around. But, once it’s off the ground, or making progress again, they will probably have a tendency to lose interest in maintaining that project. In fact, others might criticize them for not finishing things. Or, for being impatient, or for acting too quickly without weighing the evidence more carefully because when they are part of a group or team and things get bogged down, your client will tend to take the ball and run with it, even if it means going against what’s popular or currently accepted. In action, this talent often appears as a spark plug or catalyst for coordinating the activities of others to start up new projects, programs, or systems, often as a self-starter who works on hunches.
Planners & Analyzers. This kind of talent likes to take something already created, make it come to life, or improve upon it. These clients have a natural talent for planning - a knack for seeing into the future to determine the details and sequences of events Listen for stories about them devising and planning an approach to meet a specific goal, whether it’s playing chess, or football, or a major home renovation, or a political campaign, or a major holiday. They enjoy working with strategies, tactics and angles. Do they like to plan things out before they get started on a major project? Or do they tend to plan as they go? This talent has a clear idea of how to map out a long range plan over 3-5 years. Do they get excited about the details that are necessary in planning a project that involves a combination of people, processes, and schedules? You may find that they know about or find it easy to learn to use a GANT or PERT chart or a critical path methodology. They have a knack for budget planning or term cost scheduling. And, they may express frustration with others who really don’t take time to plan things right! In action, this talent likes to give full consideration to time, costs, equipment, personnel, facilities, so much so, that others might criticize them for paralysis by analysis, for being indecisive and afraid to take risks, when they are simply trying to ensure accuracy and precision.
Front-line and Operations. This kind of talent loves to get their hands dirty solving problems on the “shop floor’ or at the front desk. Listen for stories where they are running things on a daily basis. A stay-at-home parent who enjoys making her family’s busy life run efficiently and effectively probably did the same thing in her previous life as an office manager, or nursing supervisor, or classroom teacher. How do they get people who are very different with different objectives to work together towards a common goal? Do they like to bring out the best in others? If so, how do they do it? In action, this talent is very good at process, and makes a valuable contribution to any organization as a stabilizing influence; at home or work, they are the glue that holds things together. Others might criticize them for lacking spontaneity and flexibility because they prefer things to be permanent.
Listen carefully for important distinctions. Someone who says they can do anything if only people would get out of the way is not a natural front-line supervisor. An individual who would rather manage a project from start-to-finish is not a natural operations manager, who would prefer to manage a department, plant, or company over a period of time. And, of course, the number one distinction to listen for is consistent enjoyment in these tasks. Just because somebody is good at something doesn’t mean they have a natural talent for it. For example, the oldest child of four who grew up in a single-parent household may, by necessity, learned how to help out their parent by getting their younger siblings organized for school and life each day, so they are successful at running an office, or plant, or company, but it may drain them rather than energize them. Natural supervisors get energized by initiating, planning or managing at the front-line. That’s what sets them apart from others who can do the same thing.