Are You Worth the Time?

"Nothing great was built fast"

A few months back, I met with a HR executive at a large organization. As we talked about talent discovery, and the role it plays in engaging employees and building solid teams, I told him about the Highlands Ability Battery, and why I believe it is one of the best talent assessment tools out there.  He was engaged and eager to learn more about it, until he heard that it takes about 3.5 hours to complete the assessment.

"Oh, that’s a long time; we can’t offer that to our employees,” was his response. 

I explained that the assessment is broken up into 5-10 minute sections, and does not have to be taken at one sitting. He just would not get over the fact that the whole assessment would take 3.5 hours.

So then, I thought, how much time is acceptable for a person to invest in understanding more about who they are? An hour? A few hours? A few days or months? Think about it for a minute; an assessment that uncovers your natural abilities, personality, thinking pattern, the types of work best suited for you and your ideal work environment, and this guy thinks it’s too much time! I was lost for words.

How much time are you willing to invest in discovering who you are?

Your answer to this question answers a bigger question. “Are you worth the time it takes to know more about yourself?” No one should answer this question for you. Unfortunately, the mindset of this HR executive and others like him, answered the question for the people at his organization. And the greater misfortune is that this mindset is prevalent in today’s corporate culture. In our microwave minded culture, when something takes longer than our mindset can accommodate, we balk at it. Most of the popular assessments we use today take between 30 – 90 minutes to complete. And for a number of people, anything over 60 minutes is a stretch. How sad.

Your natural abilities are neural paths formed in your brain while you were developing in the womb. It took you 9 months to bake in that womb, and you spent at least 18 years getting some form of education. Your natural prewiring has, unconsciously for the most part, determined how you interact with your environment. You are a very complex creature, and I find it absurd that anyone would think spending hours or days or months to better understand who and how they are is too long a time.

In 2007, I had come to a critical point in my career; I was running our small web and graphic design company, and could not imagine doing this the rest of my life. I had to figure out what I was good at and what the best career was for me. It took me about 3 years, I repeat, 3 years of searching and asking questions, to uncover my talents and map out a good career direction. I took a lot of assessments and read tons of books on finding that inner spark.

In 2013, I was invited to take the best talent assessment ever; the Johnson O’Connor Aptitude test. This is an in person test; you go into one of their many test centers around the country, and spend a whole work day (8 hours,) being run through a battery of tests. You get an hour for lunch. And then you come back the next day for a half day debrief with a consultant. Yes, a day and a half to discover your natural abilities. I wonder what that HR executive would think if I told him about this test. 3.5 hours is too long? You have to be kidding me.

As I’ve spoken, taught and coached on the subject of talent discovery and development, I’ve noticed 3 types of mindset when it comes to talent discovery:

  1. The drive through mindset
  2. The fine dining mindset
  3. The farmer mindset

The Drive-through Mindset

People with this mindset want a quick assessment. The assessment should take no longer than 60 minutes to complete, with multiple choice questions only, and an instant report that MUST tell them all there is to know about themselves. 

These folks will not spend time reflecting on, or soliciting feedback from other people regarding the outcome of the assessment. They’ve taken the test and have been put in a box based on how they answered the questions. The oracle has spoken, and that’s it. Good luck with living in that box.

If you have this mindset, you will have a very shallow understanding of yourself, and will most likely end up in the wrong career.

The Fine Dining Mindset

These folks are willing to invest more time in the discovery process than those in the first group. They will take a long assessment, reflect on and discuss the results, and get quite a bit out of the process. They however, make this a one-time experience, and plow forward with the results of their assessment. That is a problem.

Here’s why I say that. Being that we are complex creatures, I do not believe that any single assessment alone can tell you everything you need to know about yourself. Every assessment you take will reveal something you may never have noticed. The more assessments you take, the better you understand yourself. Our talents and abilities are fixed, but our interests change over time, and thus how we engage our abilities will evolve too. We must continue the discovery and/or development process in order to make the most of our abilities.

The Farmer Mindset

These people understand that self-discovery is a lifelong process. They are not just interested in answers but want to become students of themselves, and sharpen their self-awareness skills. People with the Farmer mindset take many assessments over their lifetime, and are constantly comparing answers or results from all the assessments. They understand that one assessment never tells the full story and that layering results help point out strongest abilities.

They are eager to develop their abilities and are constantly looking for opportunities to stretch themselves. They have a growth mindset. And this mindset keeps them stretching beyond their current position. The more they learn about themselves, the farther they push the boundaries of their achievement.

Learning must never end, and learning about yourself must be a priority. Senior executives who have (or develop) the Farmer mindset will invest more in the development of their team members. You cannot give what you don’t have, and you cannot push for something you don’t believe in. How you see personal development will determine what you put into the development of your team and employees. Every employee must take responsibility for their personal development, and those in HR and Learning & Development, will set the cap on how much professional development an organization pursues. If they have a drive-through mindset, they will offer quick and easy assessments and count that as success. If they have a farmer’s mindset, they will offer more extensive assessments and more importantly, teach their employees to make personal development a lifestyle.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by my friend Duane Cummings to speak to the employees at Leadercast. They have weekly Friday morning meeting called “Nourishment Friday” at which they invite speakers and experts on different topics to come teach them something. Think about this; this is every week. Not once a quarter, every week. This is the Farmers mindset at work in an organization. Employees are constantly reading and learning new things on their own, but the company carves out time weekly to nourish everyone. This event is open to all employees and people in their community, and is part of their work day.

So, I ask you again; are you worth the time it takes to discover who you are? I know I am, and I believe you are, but I cannot answer the question for you. Before you answer the question, sit back and think about the actions you have taken to learn more about yourself. Do you prefer quick assessments over the lengthy ones? Do you even care to take assessments or are you just looking for the next promotion? Your actions reveal your answer to the question.

You are a complex being. Make and take the time to understand how you are. The greatest discovery is the discovery of self. And, nothing great was built fast.

You are worth the time it takes.

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