Context: Back to the Future

2018 Marketing & Sales Mentees showing off their Signature Talent Themes 

I recently facilitated a presentation on the power of defining and incorporating talents at work to an internal group of young professionals.  This group consisted of team members participating in our annual Marketing & Sales Mentoring Program.  Each year, we solicit ambitious employees to apply for this 8 month journey.  Like Ollivander himself, we magically pair "mentees" with seasoned mentors based on the skills and competencies that the future leaders would like to strengthen.

I have only just begun taking my StrengthsFinder act "on the road".  Up until recently, my evangelism has been practiced upon my direct reports and to a smattering of interested parties within my division.  For this group of eager mentees, I wanted to demonstrate why I am so darn passionate about all this stuff.

In short, I needed to provide Context.  

Establishing Context would not come easy for me as it ranks as #30 out of my own 34 Talent Themes.  Gallup might call this a "Non-Talent".  With Futuristic sitting at #3 for me, I tend to look forward vs. backwards in most situations.  Globally, Context is a rare find in "Top 5" lists, appearing only 9% of the time.

People with Context use the past to understand the present.  Like Archaeologists, they dig deep to discover original blueprints and initial intentions.  The Context Talent Theme allows people to gain confidence and clarity from knowing how people and projects came to be by first understanding their history.  This power also makes them great partners, as they have a respect for how people have become who they are.  This part really resonates with me.  When I know someones Top 5 Signature Talent Themes (their history), I have a better understanding of their motivations and potential for contribution.

So, I dug deep and looked back back over my 30+ year professional career.  Fueled by my Ideation talent (#2), I created a "strengths-zone" thermometer to measure the extent that my talents were being leveraged in the many roles I have played over the years.  In doing this, I uncovered a graph that had more ups and downs than the Hulk Coaster.  When I carefully examined the lowest points, I determined that those were roles and responsibilities requiring consistency, discipline, caution and consensus building.  Surprise - all of these competencies represent my basement (#31-#34) of talent themes.

Part of me wanted to grab my StrengthsFinder results, jump into a DeLorean, type in April 27, 1985 (college graduation day) and chart a new career path with the knowledge of my talents to guide my choices.  Being a futurist, I am leaving that option open.   

The good news (Positivity #4) is I am currently on the upswing and firmly believe it is not where you start, it is where you finish.  According to my "strengths-zone-o-meter", I am now leveraging more of my natural talents today than in any time since the ride began 33 years ago.

By providing the Context of my professional journey to the group of mentees, I hope I was able to teach them a few lessons and prevent them from waiting 30 years to discover their own "strengths-zone".


To put this all into Context, here are some ways your local historians can leverage this Talent Theme in the workplace;

* Assign this person to prepare Case Studies or projects requiring research of the past.  This person would be energized by designing Standard Operating Procedures based upon lessons learned.  At the end of an event or program, have people with Context summarize what should be repeated and what could be improved moving forward.

* Allow them to partner with a mentor within your organization with a long history to share regarding the origin of current programs, policies and practices.

* Let people with Context tell their own story and review what they have done and learned along the way.  Provide them outlets to share their life lessons with others.



Dan is currently serving 20 years to life as the Sr. Director of Destination Experiences at Universal Orlando Resort.  He prefers white-water rapids over data lakes and lists Ideation, Futuristic and Positivity amongst his signature talents.    Find him on Twitter @dpddonovan 


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