Making use of wider talents

I’ve worked with many people in my time who I value greatly. To consider software developers as an example, some are just excellent at writing software, but the ones I generally value most of all are those who can do more than just that. They are people who can speak to a client or an end user, implement some design, make a security recommendation, analyse a business problem, and much more. They can work far beyond the superficial bounds expected of someone with the job title “developer”.

Of those who aren’t the greatest among their peers at these wider skills, the majority still do these things very well. Speaking to a client or end user is a lot about listening and putting yourself in their shoes; making a security recommendation can be a significant undertaking, but often people are just looking for ideas; analysis of a business problem is a lot about thinking about how people work.

But some people don’t like using those extra talents. Perhaps they feel a bit out of their comfort zone. Perhaps they are surprised to be doing that kind of work. Perhaps they just get their enjoyment from the core aspects of their work. Perhaps they don’t really appreciate the value of doing those extra things—either for their own skill development or for the organisation.

While most people I work with are keen extend their skillset, some are a bit reluctant. In these situations I have to remind myself that not everyone has the same motivation. Am I being unreasonable in asking them? Have I set expectations and context appropriately? Should I have set expectations differently when they signed up for the job? And—most of all—have I taken the time to listen to and understand their needs?

Most of the time much of this does not need to be discussed. But occasionally we need to step back and make an explicit effort to understand and balance the expectations and needs of the individual with the expectations and needs of the organisation.

Photo by Edward Simpson