Sunday, 16 December 2012

Modelling a Talent - Tuning a Guitar

I was showing someone how to model a talent yesterday and as an example we picked the talent of being able to tune a guitar.

I'm not going to go through the whole process here, but I wanted to share some important points which really exemplify what talent modelling is all about.

Experts make their talent look easy

When you get into the fine detail of how an expert does what they do, you'll often find that they don't just make it look easy, they really do make it easy. They stack the odds in their favour. The musician that we modelled didn't tune his guitar to concert pitch unless he was playing in a band. In general, he tuned his guitar to itself. If he needed to play with other musicians, he simply tuned the first string to a known note from an electronic tuner, and then used his method to tune the remaining strings. He described his method as "the most effective" way to tune a guitar. It's not the way that a learner would be taught, but it was the quickest and most accurate way for his purpose: to play it.

Why Do We Benchmark Against the Average?

People ask us why we benchmark high performers against the average rather than against low performers? Surely we want as big a contrast as possible?

No, absolutely not. Here's why.

Here is a distribution graph representing performance levels for a given role in a population:

Can you see why we don't cross reference against low performers?

In any given population, we could profile competence against a particular task. What we would always find is a normal distribution, as in the above diagram, because that's a quirk of the statistical method. So low performers aren't necessarily a bunch of losers who need to be fired forthwith; you might say that their performance levels are acceptable, that the average performers are good and the highest performers are outstanding, and you don't know why. The high performers are defined only by their performance, not by whether you like them or think they're really good.

Typically, the midpoint of the curve marks a difference in a person's goal or outcome.

In a customer service example, to the left, the outcome might be to work to the customer service standard procedure. To the right, it might be to delight customers. The goal of the procedure isn't to delight customers, it's to manage all customer interactions equally.

Where high performers always excel is in their ability to adapt.

To the right of the centre line, we can say that all of the staff share the same outcomes, but the average performers haven't adapted their behaviour to the culture to the extent that they achieve maximum performance for minimum effort. We often find that the average performers do everything 'by the book', but following procedures leads to consistency, not excellence. What we need to do is refine excellence and turn it into a procedure, and you'll then see performance levels rise across the organisation.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Learn Talent Modelling

We're making plans to run talent modelling courses in the New Year.

The format will be 5 days in total, split into a 3 day module, a month to complete a project and a 2 day certification module.

The cost will be £995 and will include either a copy of Genius at Work or The NLP Master Practitioner Manual.

We're also considering a 3 day NLP module to precede the talent modelling course which would then give you full SNLP Master Practitioner certification, depending on previous study and certifications. The additional cost for this module is £695 so you can get fully certified Master Practitioner training for a total of  £1690.

We will start making the arrangements in the New Year but if you want to get your name down early, just get in touch via

Thursday, 13 December 2012

More Counter-Intuition

Why are talents often driven by counter-intuitive rules?

Simply, because they're not your rules, so they aren't obvious. They seem counter-intuitive because they're contrary to your intuition. But to the high performer, they seem completely logical.

Looking deeper than that, we can observe that the results of a talent, such as outstanding sales or customer service performance, are not the goal of the role model, they are merely the observable results or measures. High performers don't set out to be high performers, they just set out to do what they believe is best, and the external environment takes care of the rest.

A high performer's rules are always internally referenced, meaning that their point of reference is always within themselves. They provide the benchmark for success or the motive for the behaviour. Not the trigger, but the motive. A high performer's behaviour is therefore independent of circumstances. They will treat all customers with respect because that is the right thing to do.

An average performer typically operates from externally referenced rules, so they only respect customers when someone's watching, or when they feel like it, or when the customer seems important. Average performers can't improvise and adapt because they don't share the same underlying motive as the high performer.

As humans, we tend to project our inner thoughts and feelings out onto the world. A school of philosophy says that our external reality is completely made up of such projections. Another, opposing school of thought says that external reality is a stage and we place ourselves as players upon it.

There is a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that both may be true, depending on the situation. We already know that children create mental maps of the world beyond a certain stage of development, and we already know that people do indeed project their thoughts and feelings onto others in order to resolve internal conflict.

For example, someone might completely over-react to what a colleague says to them. In their minds, they distort what the colleague says so that their memory fits their reaction, rather than accepting that they over-reacted. Arrogance drives projection, in their case. The constant is that they are always right, the variable is their ability to distort their perception of reality and their working assumption is that no-one will question or stand up to them.

I said that high performers work from internally referenced rules, and that means that they tend to project those rules outwards onto other people. That's why, when you ask a high performer how they're able to do what they do, they say, "I don't know, doesn't everyone do it?"

Of course, they observe other people not getting the same results as them, and they often attribute this to luck. They say, "Well everyone does what I do, I must just be lucky". Conversely, the average performer blames luck for their inconsistent results.

The high performer is largely unaware of these rules, and when we model that person and bring those rules to the surface, they can seem counter-intuitive.

In fact, when you put yourself into the high performer's shoes, those rules make complete sense.