The Physics of Talent

Traveling home from a business trip last week, I came across an article entitled, “The Physics of Talent” by John Boudreau, in Talent Management magazine. The timing of it really struck me, as relevant subjects have been very much on my mind lately.

Here’s a snippet of the text:

You are probably familiar with the phrase, “ability times motivation equals performance.” That idea is not quite complete. Even the most motivated and capable people may not perform if they are not given the right opportunity.

For example, you need to be out front meeting customers, not in the back stock room, to use your motivation and capability for customer interaction. “Ability times motivation times opportunity equals performance” is actually a prominent model in the world of human capital strategy, called the AMO (ability-motivation-opportunity) framework.

Poignant stuff – talent management surely is a blend of ability, motivation, and opportunity. And the changes of those three components in my career over the past two years have had a huge impact on me.

I was brought on to the team because of certain abilities, and was hired into an opportunity to use them because the hiring manager saw that I had the motivation to use them. (In her words, it was my passion for the work that really convinced her. Unfortunately things with the team changed, we had to find other areas for me to work on, and then she left the company.

I worked with two other managers in my first year and a half, and each wanted for me to have the opportunity to shine, but neither really had the ability to shape my role that way. Towards the end of last year, my boss’s boss was really starting to see opportunities for me to dive in with additional areas of work, and do things that would allow me to make the kind of impact I’m capable of and motivated to make… Then at the end of last year, a new executive replaced him, and the cycle continued.

I’ve now found myself in a role that I would’ve never applied for, and for which my boss would’ve never hired someone with my qualifications. This isn’t a great situation to be in, but there’s a silver lining: my manager is being very supportive of me looking for a better fit.

Case in point: Last week my team had an offsite in Charlotte, and we devoted part of one day to a teammate and me training our team on the highlights of a full-day training class that we’d participated in a few weeks ago. Afterward, she took me aside and told me that I’d really “shined” while facilitating that class, and that she was proud of the work that I did — but that with the restructuring of our team, the opportunities for me to “shine” in that kind of work would be few and far between. She then asked how she could help me find a better fit that would be more in line with my career path.

So that’s where I am… My job has been changed so much that it’s not remotely the job for which I applied and was hired to do, but at least my manager recognizes that fact and is supportive of me moving on to a better fit. I mentioned recently that I had some decisions to make about my future, and my next steps are still uncertain… but I’ve had a couple of interviews now, and the process seems to be going well, so I’m cautiously optimistic that a better career fit is on the horizon.

Stay tuned, faithful readers… There may be a new opportunity to multiply my abilities and motivation by in the near future.

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