From the desk of Randy Wolken…
President & CEO

Weekly thoughts and insights from MACNY’s President & CEO, Randy Wolken, designed to inspire and provoke thought among leaders within MACNY’s membership.

Do You Recognize the Genius Around You?

One of the important roles leaders play is to recognize and develop the talent latent in our teams and organizations. We hire for talent and we hope to develop additional talents as our organizations need them. However, how often is this really done? And, what matters most in this process? I contend that this is one of our primary task as leaders and we must become intentional in how we do it.

Recently, I attended a family gathering where I witnessed a budding genius at work. His name is Paul and he plays the most beautiful piano I have ever heard. And, he is only 15. Watching and listening to him was a true joy and an experience I will never forget. He literally moved with the music and the piano made sounds that I could not even hope to ever accomplish in a lifetime of practice and playing. He has the gift – and it is pure joy to experience. But, it got me thinking. Do I have such a “genius” talent? Does everyone else? If so, what must I do to develop my “genius” gift and those of the people I lead?

I got my answer to these questions when Paul stopped playing. After taking a breath – and thinking I could listen to him play for hours- I complimented him on his extraordinary playing. Actually, I just said, “that was beautiful.” Yes, just three simple words. And, he said “thank you” and smiled. He then went on to play another song and over the course of the weekend, whenever he would play, I would just sit in the room and listen and then compliment him on his wonderful playing. This happened multiple times. Each with the same result. More playing, more great music, and both of us satisfied with the result. So, I had my answer to my question of “how do I promote the use of talent?” I recognize it and praise it – over and over and over again. And guess what happens, I get more of it. In fact, I was told that Paul had been playing less than usual. That his skills were “getting rusty.” Well, on this weekend, they were amazing and he played as myself and others encouraged him to play as we just reveled in listening.

Research has shown that “genius” is a developed talent. In fact, it takes about 10,000 hours (about 10 years) of practice to become truly extraordinary at a skill or ability. Mozart started playing piano at 4. By his teen years, he was a prodigy. It takes countless hours of practice to master a task. However, we must identify what we and others can be truly great at – and develop it. Mastery is what drives our economy and our organizations’ successes. Finding ways to identify who has what talent and encouraging its practice and development will mark the truly great organizations of the 21st century. And most of the time it merely involves stopping, observing, and praising. These three simple leadership tasks encourage practice, participation, and excellence. Are you practicing them? I know I need too more.

I called Paul to thank him. His playing inspired me to seek mastery in my own development and to seek to be a leader that inspires it in those around me at work and at home. Gifts should not be wasted. Our success depends on them.