“If you don’t know the purpose for something (or you choose to ignore that purpose), you can’t do anything other than abuse it…you use it in an erratic and disorderly manner. Unknown purpose leads to misuse, which is a stronger form of abuse.” – In pursuit of purpose by Myles Munroe.
In Africa, people spend more than a decade at school to get a degree, many credentials in order to be “someone in the corporate world and get a lot of money”. They define themselves by their job title: I’m a CEO, a Doctor; I’m a financial analyst, etc. In such a world where everything else in your life depends on how your job is doing, the value people place on us depends on the value HRs and our managers place on our jobs and subsequently on us. Put simply, we base our self-worth on the credentials or number of years of experience we have. Going further, by the university or business school we attended. If we get our degree in Africa, then we have low value, if the degree is from USA or in Europe, that’s a high end quality, we have what it takes to be “someone in the corporate world”. You see we have come to the place where we place no value on WHO WE ARE. This is a really serious problem for we Africans. Since at the individual level we don’t trust our natural ability, we go to school not to be who we are but to chase credentials. We go to work not to reveal our uniqueness but to conform. We believe that if it’s from the Western world, it better than what we have, it could be a school, a company, a person. This thinking pattern is so strong that even in politics, we place no value on our own constitution. In reality, we lack self-awareness of our God-given talent, we even don’t mention the notion of talent, we are knowledge and skills driven and more is better.
As individuals lack self-awareness, ignore their natural strengths, go chase the job promising the best compensation packages, they further advance on the road of life without purpose, career without purpose where everything boils down to big sounding titles and high amount of money. They use the brain for what it’s not wired for, out of its true purpose, out of what their life purpose, their abuse their own brain. Now, if you abuse your own brain, what others can do to you? Their will do it even worst.
HR Managers are also guilty of brain abuse
Think about it! When companies want to hire people, what do they ask for? Well, knowledge and skills. How about personal strength zone? No one really cares about that these days during the entire hiring cycle. Why not? For most HRs and functional managers, there are really only three premises to succeed at any position: (1) Employees are all the same, no difference, you can put them anywhere you want as long as they have the degree and skills you want, (2) how well the degree fits the job? And (3) how long the employee have been practicing the skills? This is why you see in the job description things like Master’s degree in finance and more than 8 progressive years of experience at similar position. The hidden assumption here being, if you succeeded in doing a similar job in the past, you can succeed in doing the same thing in the future. It sound correct, but it ignores change. The key to succeed in the future is not by identifying yesterday success and copying. In the world today where change is the norm, going like this is the safest way to hit a wall.
Now, where is the brain abuse?
You see in the job casting (hiring, promotion), employees feel miscast in their role. The widespread inability to position people comes from the fact HR managers give little place for personal strength. As natural talent is taken out of the equation, knowledge and skills alone are supposed to deliver expected results. Even is this knowledge and skills rulership, “Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people: (1). each person can learn to be competent in almost anything. (2.) Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.” This habit of trying to reconfigure people, force their brain to do what it not wired for in the name of “giving training to transform weakness into strength” is the most rampant way of brain abuse in corporate world. As Marilyn Vos Savant put it “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses”
Let’s face it, If you don’t know the purpose for someone’s brain (his natural talent) or you choose to ignore that purpose, you can’t do anything other than abuse it, you use it in an erratic and disorderly manner putting the person at the position where what is required to succeed falls in their weakness, you are abusing her brain. You will get some results from that abuse, the problem is the person doing the job will need to solicit a lot of energy, longer hour of work, to get little results, because the job doesn’t come to her easily. At the end of the day, she is exhausted, drained dry, and the longer the person does that work, more frustrated she becomes. The frustration is the sign she is out of place, misusing her brain, and abusing the brain. And just go around the corporate world, zillion of people are just brain abused workers. This needs to stop. I guess you don’t want this to happen to you or if it’s happening to you, please, I don’t want you to stay in this frustration roller coaster.
HR managers to become human talent casting directors
In life, you have to distinguish things you get for free (but are priceless, you cannot replace them) from things that cost you money but you can replace them anytime you want.
How many of you can replace your brains? You were born with only one, no spare parts, and you got it free. If you impair it, doctors can try to help, but there is no guarantee this is going to work. This FREE BRAIN, is the source of your talent. Buckingham and Clifton define talent as “any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied”. As you can see, the way your brain is wired determines your unique combination of thought, feeling, or behavior. This is why you can easily do one thing and hardly do another thing. If you pay attention to those (thoughts, feelings, or behaviors) that come easily to you, you are one your way to use your brain for its purpose. If HRs and managers, instead of treating people only based on degree and experience, can factor in natural talent, the job can then serve as mean to enhance what the worker is, bring him happy and fulfilling career that will turn out into high performance for the company. And like a casting directing, HRs and Managers have to accept the reality that each employee is different, and devise ways to capitalize on those differences by looking at the specificity of each employee and placing him so he/she can complete each other. The weakness of one team member is filled by the strength of another team member. This individualization is for me what can differentiate a normal HR or manager from someone who is keen at combining human talent to build winning team, a real human talent casting Director. That’s where HRs and managers need to go. They need then to change how they treat people, they need to change how they motive people, they need to check whether those nice performance and even promotion scheme build or abuse people’s brain.
I’ll close with this formula from Buckingham & Clifton: Talents + Skills + Knowledge = Strengths. Align your people management scheme on this, and you can get the best from them, and they will also be happy to give you their best since they will be functioning in their top 1%
Start doing something about the way you treat your own brain and how your company treat employee’s brains! Start TODAY!
Author: ALFRED LOUA is one of the Africa’s leading organizational decision-making authorities, the trusted voice on building organic growth for individuals and organizations. An Ivorian born entrepreneur, he’s the founder & CEO of MBCAfrica (Africa’s premier provider of Business Case and Growth Leadership Decision Cult™ services – Consulting, training and executive coaching), and the inventor of the Growth Leadership Decision Cult Framework™.