Do you know any kids that went to college and you knew they should have gone to a trade school instead? How about a friend that aspirations to be in management and you knew they should have stayed where they were? How about someone who quit what they were doing to “follow their dream” expecting the money to follow, only to fall flat on their face? What about that employee who wants to have a “progressive career of advancements” with your company and you know they don’t have what it takes. All of these are situations where a DOSE OF REALITY would have been the best advice you could have given them. A dose of reality means you help someone make an honest assessment of themselves.
Honest assessments are not easy
Throughout my career and my life it has been apparent that honest assessments of people are very hard to do. We struggle with that as parents. We want our children to go on and to great things and be successful. So how do you really tell a child that their skill set is not really suited for college? It is hard as a friend to tell a good friend that they are not a good singer/dancer/writer/athlete. We see the result of this every year on American Idol as we watch people who have been misled by those around them, generally with good intentions, look ridiculous on the stage belting out some horrible rendition of a song that their mother told them sounded fantastic.
We even do this at work with less-than-honest evaluations of employees because it is hard to tell people “you are not good at this.” We hope they figure it out themselves and leave so we can avoid doing it. I have often said that managers hate to do three things: hire, fire and evaluate. The reason is that all of these actions require a public judgment about someone we would just as soon avoid.
Tips to help someone with an honest assessment
This post comes from a blog post by Phil Cooke entitled Please, stop following your dreams. Mr. Cooke, a Hollywood filmmaker, producer and speaker, said in his new book “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do”, that he often struggled with whether he should tell someone they just did not have the talent to achieve what they wanted to do. He wanted to tell them to stop following their dream. I will admit in my career, which is not in Hollywood, that I have had that dilemma as well. That is why when I read his four steps for discovering what you are good at I thought this would be a good way to help people with an honest assessment.
Four Key Questions
He suggests there are four key things that someone should ask of themselves or you can help them ask. They include:
- What comes easy for you? Think back over your life, even if it has been a short one (e.g., you are still in high school). What did you gravitate to? Was there a task that you always did? Is there a task that everyone said “you need to do this, you are a natural.”
- What do you love? I know this is sort of “follow your dream”, but are you doing something for free because you love it? Why not try to make some money doing it?
- What drives you nuts? Cooke suggests that “…the thing you hate the most could be the problem you were born to fix.” He says the answer to that question may hold the key to your destiny.
- Have you done the time? Have you made the commitment to what you are good at? He gives some examples of people who want to write a book but take no writing lessons or don’t even read a book on writing. Or people who want to be a musician but find no time to practice. The fact is that if you truly want to do something you will find the time to put into making yourself better at it. If you have done this then perhaps that is what you should be doing with your career.
These four questions can help someone begin that honest assessment that can help them get the opportunity in life they would actually cherish instead of doing what they happened to fall into. Perhaps you may ask yourself these questions too. You never know.