“So what do you think?” Aligning Employees' Work With Their Passions

Is there any leadership advice more common than this? To be a great leader, you must inspire others to do their best work.

The problem is, it’s not entirely true. To be a great leader, you must inspire others to become great leaders themselves. Essentially, you must be a talent multiplier, someone who creates a climate and culture in which developing others is as important as developing oneself.

Multiplying talent begins with targeting talent—that is, identifying, assessing, and leveraging potential in others to match the right people to the right roles.

Shelley Cascio, a Group Insurance regional sales vice president, looks for individuals who want to learn, grow, challenge themselves, and who have a passion for their work. When interviewing job candidates, she especially wants to know about their professional goals. The best way to do this is also the simplest. “I listen to them,” Cascio explains. “I want to know what drives them so that I can find the right development opportunities for them. For instance, not everyone wants to move up a hierarchy, so I find appropriate ways to grow their skills.”

Cascio also adds that no amount of bullets on a résumé can substitute for having the right personality. “I want to see how someone thinks and makes decisions,” says Cascio, who recalls early in her career having a manager who constantly asked, “So, what do you think?”

“I got so frustrated. I hated it!” she reveals. “But now I love him for challenging me,” adding that “the better you understand how people think, the better able you are to bring out their best.”

Meanwhile, Greg Vega, an Internal Audit senior audit manager, tailors assignments for his direct reports by aligning their work with formal “individual development plans. ” He is focused on learning about his team members’ long- and short-term goals any chance he gets—not just the annual review process.

“It’s important to have conversations around development regularly,” he points out. “We’re all so busy that sometimes all we think about is getting tasks done, but if you don’t schedule formal meetings with people, then development opportunities for them can easily pass.” Plus, such consistent conversations show employees that you care about them as individuals and are invested in their success.

Even when such success may not tie into your own goals. Sometimes an employee’s aspirations may lie outside of the person’s department, or even Prudential. “It’s important not to limit that individual by coaching the person to stay in a role or area that isn’t ideal,” Vega advises. “You always have to be willing to encourage employees to reach their full potential, wherever that might be.”

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