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When I worked in the corporate world, I associated talent with something outside of me.

Talent was the area of ‘talent managers’. People who had long, complicated excel sheets that they were vigorously updating before important leadership team meetings. Those lists were only to be discussed in private cubicles, because they had names on them.

Names….. Of talents… You were one or you were not.
Wrong. I know that now.

Talents and excel sheets have very little in common. It is not true that you ‘are’ one, or not.

The area of talents is one of abundance and joy.
Not exclusivity and ‘up or out’.

Talents are those qualities that come naturally to you. The ones you feel are ‘normal’ but make all the difference for other people. They are the reason why people want to work with you or have you on the team.

Your adaptability for example, or your idea generation. The energy you bring when you enter a meeting. Your empathy, or action orientation. The way you bring social fabric to a group or community. The way you take charge.

You work with your talents when what you do feels effortless. Energy, not outcome, is the most important indicator. You can be very good at something, get compliments, get asked for projects, but still feel depleted. That means that you are probably very competent, but not working with your talents. Like I know how to project manage very well – but rarely after a day of project management do I come home and go ‘wohooooo what an awesome day’. Doesn’t mean that you need to stop doing those things. But knowing why you feel so tired can help. And there may be another way of getting to the same results.

Now here is the tragedy: because real talents often feel so normal to you, you don’t notice them. Or value them. Or think they are anything special. And that is why you may need someone else to help you see.

Your manager for example.

So here is a call to action. Rather than dive straight into goals or gap-based development: start your goal-setting conversations with the question:

When does your manager sees you in total flow. When do they see you doing great work whilst it feels effortless. What are the conditions? What are the qualities that you show?

And then, rather than work on your gaps, see how you can make more of this to get you started on your goals for the year.

Wouldn’t that be an awesome start?

Originally published on

Tessa van Westrenen (l) & Annemarie Bleeker (r)

Tessa van Westrenen has over 20 years of Change Management and Organizational Effectiveness consulting experience; a strong track record in organisational health diagnostics, design and execution of results-driven improvement initiatives including business transformation. She has developed a series of leadership development programs that have been accredited by the Institute of Leadership in the UK. She is passionate about female leadership development. She lives in The Hague with her 16-year old triplets, a large dog and a grumpy rescue-cat, loves spending time outdoors and drinks too much coffee.

Annemarie Bleeker also has over 20 years of experience in Leadership Development and Organizational Effectiveness consulting, Annemarie excels in coaching top-level executives across both profit and non-profit sectors. She guides leaders on personal leadership, building strong teams, and steering their organizations through uncertain times. Annemarie is also the acclaimed author of a book on collaboration and teaming, which was nominated for Management Book of the Year in the Netherlands. As a former female leader in a large organization, she is particularly passionate about fostering female leadership development. Residing in The Hague with her husband and three children, Annemarie has a love for color, creativity, and has recently taken up boxing.