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From The Archive

54. If you need skills, hire talent.
As a manager, are you managing talent or skills? Understanding this distinction can mean the difference between your long term success and failure as a manager.

Talent is "general intelligence, aptitude or mental power". That is, it represents a person's (or a team's) fundamental abilities, regardless of the task. Skill is "a learned power of doing a thing competently". It refers to a learned competency that pertains to a specific task. A person can be skilled at a task without having the talent necessary to learn new skills necessary for new tasks. The talented worker, however, can acquire new skills to tackle new projects.

Anyone can hire people with specific skills and deploy those skills to get a job done. The best managers hire talent rather than skills, because when you have talent, you can develop all the skills you want. The best managers know that talented employees can handle new projects because these emlpoyees can acquire almost any skills they need to do jobs they've never encountered before.

In many cases, it's cheaper and less time-consuming to let a talented employee learn to do a new task than to find, interview and hire someone who already has the necessary skill. It can also be more efficient to hire someone who lacks specific skills but is talented enough to ride a fast learning curve.

If you need skills, hire talent.


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