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Academic Insight: Hidden Gems In The Organization

Shontarius D. Aikens

The outcome of Super Bowl LV on Sunday, February 7, 2021 surprised a lot of people. Quarterback Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise to their second Super Bowl title. At the age of 43 and after winning seven Super Bowls over his career, Brady is now considered by many to be the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) quarterback in NFL history. But did you know that Tom Brady was not viewed very favorably by NFL scouts when coming out of college? 

According to ESPN’s documentary “Brady 6”, NFL scouts and prognosticators questioned Tom Brady’s talent, traits, and abilities to be successful in the NFL. 

As a result, other quarterbacks were picked before him. Ultimately, he was selected at pick No. 199 in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft. Former NFL coaches have gone on the record saying that not drafting Tom Brady was a big mistake for their franchise and possibly one of the biggest draft-day snubs in NFL history: 

He was right in our backyard. He probably always wanted to be a 49er. And that would have been great. In fact, if we would have drafted him, I’d probably still be coaching there. 

Steve Mariucci (San Fransisco 49ers Head Coach, 1997-2002

We all missed on Brady… if the Patriots knew he was going to be that good, they wouldn’t have waited until the 6th round! 

Brian Billick (Baltimor Ravens Head Coach, 1999-2007)

Do managers and organizations overlook potential superstars, or hidden gems, in the workplace? I would argue that it happens way more often than we’d like to admit. Perhaps you have seen this happen to others in an organization, or perhaps it happened to you personally. I’m referring to situations in which hidden gems go unrecognized, underutilized, and in some cases unappreciated. Marc Effron, President of the Talent Strategy Group, provided several examples: 

• Misidentified performers (individuals who are high performers but their achievements are overlooked in formal and informal performance evaluations).

• Shy-Po’s (those who have a desire to move up, but may not raise their hand to volunteer for challenges).

• Repressed performers (individuals that displayed potential early on, but due to bad management, their potential and skills haven’t emerged or been fully realized).

• Actively hidden gems (high performers in which managers will actively “down talk” the employees abilities in an effort to prevent them from being promoted or moved).

The bottom line is this: Being good managers involves being good stewards of an organization’s resources, which includes bringing out the best in their employees. This involves adopting a mindset and a strategy to find and tap the individual greatness in all employees within their organization. Otherwise, the result could be that the individual leaves the organization and becomes an industry superstar elsewhere, perhaps for one of your competitors. Below are some guidelines and tips to help uncover possible hidden gems in your workforce.

• Cultivate a Greatness Mindset for New Employees. Assume that every new employee has the potential to be a superstar in your organization. Let new employees know that you want them at the organization, that you believe in them and their future success (because you hired them), and that you want to help them achieve their career goals. When a manager adopts a viewpoint concerning an employee and their potential for greatness, and communicates this to them frequently, the employee typically responds by performing at that high level. 

• Offer a Refresh for Existing Employees. In some organizations, a small percentage of employees are identified as exemplars, and this leads to a greater focus and attention spent on them. But what about the remaining employees? This is where I believe that some hidden gems can fall through the cracks. Relying too much on past performance can taint the ability of managers and organizations to see the future leadership potential of individuals. Consider offering a refresh which involves being intentional about their future development. Inquire about their current level of satisfaction with their position, status, or development in the organization to gauge possible areas for them to pursue in the future. 

• Incorporate Talent Assessment Inventories. Every person has natural talents and abilities; thus, it’s important for organizations, managers, and the employees themselves to know what those are in order to increase the overall performance of the organization. I’m a huge proponent of Gallup’s CliftonStrengths as an excellent tool to support this effort.

In closing, I’d like to share a quote from Dr. Shelly Gompf (professor and business consultant) whom I reached out to for this article based on her 20 years of experience in business concerning this subject. She was willing to share the following coaching advice for managers:

“My management coaching advice is 1) Create relationships with each employee (it is difficult to miss greatness when you know your employee), and 2) Make a goal to communicate regularly and ensure it is timely (call them out on their greatness).” 

I think Dr. Gompf’s quote further emphasizes how a manager can instill confidence, belief, and greatness in the minds of their employees through their words and actions. I hope this information is helpful in your quest to find the hidden gems in your organization and to put them in positions to shine brightly.. 

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