It ain’t what they call you…



 …it’s what you answer to.
WC Fields

Manager sits at their desk wearing a Leader’s hat,

‘Send for Training right away’, I want to have a chat.

Training attends immediately, carrying pen and paper,

‘I want to develop Talent’ booms Leader,

And Training’s belief dissolves like water vapour.

Seated back at their working space, Training ponders their trouble

‘How do I develop Talent’ they think, working in a Training bubble.

So Training borrows Learning’s coat and goes out for a walk,

Taking time to stop at desks and find someone to talk.

‘Hey Potential, how you doing?’ asks Learning of their friend,

Looking down Potential grimaced ‘I think this is the end’.

My Traits are now Behaviours, my Aptitude is Competence,

What I thought was Expertise has now been titled Confidence.

Performance has changed around me and I don’t know where I fit,

I’m done for now, I’m not Developed, I’ve had enough of it.

Learning pauses for a moment before answering their pal,

Don’t be hasty Potential, we need to build morale.

I’ll go and find Personnel, and get their view of things,

Don’t jump the ship just yet, let’s see what this dialogue brings.

A frantic search for Personnel but no luck, they weren’t found,

A disappearing function that seems to go to ground.

Another look around the place, a search both near and far,

Suddenly Personnel was there, in a coat labelled HR.

‘If you’d been at the table this morning’ they said, ‘you would have heard the chatter’,

It’s what we do, not what we’re called, our label doesn’t matter.

What do you think? Do labels and names matter – let me know in the comments.

6 thoughts on “It ain’t what they call you…

  1. Our conversation last night was kicked off by Ailsa inviting our thoughts about the word talent – in the context of talent management.
    I believe the language we use to describe each other, label, categorise is very important and actually of great significance. I recently used the Harry Potter Sorting Hat as an analogy for how people are categorised for talent development. Some are in and some are out

    What is talent? More of what we already have? “Talent” is built on images and perceptions of what success is, by the people who are already holding the power. So if they’ve all got a degree, they’re probably not going to see someone who hasn’t, however hard they’ve grafted, as fitting in. If they’re all male, they’re possibly going to see women as different; if they’re all 35 they are probably going to see someone aged 50 as old, if they’re all super analytical they’re probably going to see someone creative as challenging.

    So, whilst I embrace the heart in “it’s not what we’re called” I would still argue that organisations would be better investing in the unknown potential of those who don’t fit into the shape of success – at this point “talent” “has been hijacked by the consultancies, the model makers and reinforces the status quo.

    The self starters don’t need much help – they know they have potential. They may already look like the top score in the nine grid box. The richness is in bringing out the shine in everyone who may not have the same self confidence, have had the same education to build their aspirations, who may not know just how much they could be.

    Nurturing potential isn’t always the quick route, it’s also unpredictable and messy. It’s also more inclusive – Diversity and Inclusion appears to be high on organisation’s agendas right now – what an opportunity to make change.


  2. Have you ever tried to explain to your mother, father or grand mother what you do? I don’t know about the rest of you, but unless you are a Doctor or Lawyer you really don’t do much at all 😉


  3. Thanks all for the thoughtful comments.
    I agree Meg, the language is important and the labels that other people use about us are the way in to discuss what we do. It begs the question though – what if we don’t agree with the label that other people assign us? The WC Fields quote is especially pertinent in this respect.

    I also agree with you about talent. People who know they have potential don’t always know what they need to access to move on; this blog is called lost and desperate specifically because they’re the people I see. The lost – those who don’t know what they need to do to move on and the desperate – the people who know what they want but don’t know how to access it.


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