14Oct

Highest and Best Skill

Recently I had the interesting experience of being chastised. I was being chastised because of my inadequate skill in proofreading accounting entries and spreadsheet logic. I’ll admit that it is not a skill that I have practiced. It occurred to me that the person chastising me assumed that with a little bit of practice and effort that anyone could achieve excellence in this skill.
I notice that many people will treat their own assumptions as the truth in the matter. The problem with this is that managers are not often challenged about their assumptions and so will continue having incorrect assumptions without any check from others.
Society is often the checkpoint for erroneous beliefs, however, it requires communication for people to realize mistaken beliefs. After all, why change a belief that no one challenges? It must be real, as I think it is so…
This thought process: that any skill is mastered with practice, could not be further from the truth. Consecutively is the belief that if one does not practice, they are either lazy or sloppy. In other words, it is a popular belief that anyone willing to work can attain any skill that there is. Ergo, if a person does not have the skill, it is because they are unwilling to work = laziness.
Of course all of this is simply incorrect. Educators have been trying to tell us for at least half a century that people are born with talents and preferences and abilities that are wildly different from each other. Average is a concept that is difficult to describe.
So, one cannot claim to know THE truth, at best, we can only have A truth, which is normally our own truth.
At least part of the truth is this: what talents that I have naturally and that come easily to me, or at least are attainable and manageable, are things that I will practice. This practice increases my skill level and if I am sufficiently talented and sufficiently able and willing to practice and practice, I can become a champion.
Nowhere in the above paragraph is an assumption that all skills are attainable by everyone that is willing to practice, they are not. Not everyone will make a good accountant, nor should we assume that a good accountant is a good spreadsheet proofreader. These two skills are NOT the same and the association is loose, at best.
The challenge for a good manager is to examine each assumption for the validity of the assumption. For any manager of humans and school teachers are included here, we all have different talents. Development of a talent is rewarding, however, practice in the absence of talent can yield mundane results. Additionally, talents are not interchangeable just because they are similar, you cannot make an accountant into a proof reader by virtue of association.
A mature manager knows that natural talents should be aimed at work that fits the talent. This is a critical skill for managers and it requires that a manager be talented, practiced and skillful.

Comments

  1. Concepts for review:
    Assuming you are correct
    Managers rarely receive honest feedback from subordinates
    Honoring natural talents
    Seeing talents individually without association to other talents
    The absence of practicing a talent does not equal laziness
    Practice does not equal mastery of a skill

  2. My S.O. has this belief that anyone can do anything, that everyone can do everything. So he lives with constant frustration that everyone does not understand what he is doing, thinking, creating all the time. Just because he has all these talents and abilities, he assumes that everyone else does too. This leads him to be impatient with others. This is a problem that I find only among extremely intelligent people. People of average abilities have no problem in knowing that there are things that they simply cannot master.

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