In my early days of working with Talentism I encountered the distinction drawn between unleashing potential, and changing people. “Not trying to change people, that’s nice,” I thought, but it wasn’t an element that immediately drew me in. Over time, as I’ve applied Talentism concepts and frameworks to the real world, I’ve come to see value in this principle in a place that holds a lot of meaning for me.
I have a lived experience of someone who, throughout my career, has not been able to look up in a hierarchy and see many people who looked like me. My brief period of time reporting into a Black female CFO threw everything into stark relief for me. For a moment, I had something I hadn’t understood that I was missing. I came to the visceral conclusion that yes, representation does matter.
I describe one element of purpose in my Big 4 as helping people to thrive within systems that were not designed for them to thrive in. My favorite job in college was as a test prep tutor. I taught SAT and ACT prep to high school kids in classroom settings and 1:1 tutoring. I held the opinion, and still do, that standardized tests are biased, and definitely of limited use in measuring “intelligence.” Test taking happened to come easy to me though, and once I learned strategies for success that could be passed along to others, it gave me a thrill to play a part in raising kids’ test scores. The reward was twofold: on one hand, I got to feel like I helped subvert a system that I believed was unfair and on the other, the looks on students’ faces when they got scores that they didn’t believe were possible for them were priceless.
I am compulsive about helping underrepresented communities better navigate the current reality of commercial environments, even if it’s one person at a time. The specific distinction between trying to change people, and seeking to unleash their potential, is useful in this context. In a reality in which our leadership paradigm doesn’t represent the diversity of the collective, and if you’re someone who doesn’t look or sound the part, there’s no possible change that will get you there. But your talents, opportunity, and potential are elements to ground yourself in, leveraging the data to see your way forward.