How to turn talent and potential into success

Business Impact: how to turn talent and potential into success
Business Impact: how to turn talent and potential into success

If you want to dream big and win, you must be able to grow and to keep growing; maintaining the status quo is never sufficient. Growth allows a company to change and diversify, to remain current, to have the runway to innovate. Growth is key to retaining talented employees and to have the ability to reward them with promotions, perks, and the opportunity for them to expand their own careers. Growth is everything. Growth is critical to a company’s long-term success.

You can’t reach a goal if you don’t set it

Look around and you’ll see talented people everywhere. The world is full of people who are smart, innovative, creative and diligent – and many of them know it. Proficient people are often keenly aware of their own ability to shine. However, so many of them fail to make it big, despite their merits, despite their confidence, despite their dreams and despite the fact that they’re better at what they do than 99 per cent of their peers.

What holds these superstars back? What prevents them from meeting their full potential? What’s the silver bullet? Think about your own experiences where the best person didn’t go home with the biggest prize.

For example, maybe the most pitch-perfect, technically proficient, dynamic singer you’ve ever heard is still working for tips at some random suburban karaoke bar you went to for your cousin’s bachelorette party, yet that popular band you hate is selling out arenas. Or what about your awkward high school chemistry lab partner – the guy who was always accidentally melting beakers and giving you acid burns – the same person who is now a PhD graduate testifying about science to a senate subcommittee? Why do some succeed when many do not?

The assumption is that the cream always rises to the top, but this is simply not true. While talent, creativity, innovation, hard work and a certain amount of luck are key elements, none of these aspects will guarantee results on their own. The silver bullet for turning talent and potential into success is… goal setting, paired with deadlines and accountability.

The benefits of goal setting

I know goal setting is not a sexy concept, especially when presented with her homely stepsisters, deadlines and accountability, but hear me out. A Harvard Business School study found that 10 years after graduation, the three per cent of MBA graduates who bothered to write down their goals ended up earning 10 times as much as the other 97 per cent who did not. Imagine the flex of out-earning your peers 10 to one at your next reunion.

Goal setting isn’t just having a dream you’d like to achieve and putting it on paper. You need more than rubber cement, poster board and back issues of Vogue magazine to create your vision. What you need is a systematic plan, and that’s goal setting’s homerun swing.

Goal setting is where most people get stuck and there are two reasons for this. First, people often come up with an amorphous goal, such as “I’m going to work really hard because I want to create a world-changing app, or an AI-based technology”. The problem is that there’s no measurable metric behind goals like this and no timeline. Goals must have a direction and a deadline to be effective. A common acronym in goal setting is to make that goal ‘SMART’, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Hold yourself accountable

Once you’ve established that measurable goal, holding yourself accountable to meeting the objective in a timely manner is key. So many people refuse to be tough on themselves and that’s why they don’t see their dreams come to fruition. They allow themselves too much slack. Remember, time is the enemy – if you wait too long to get your world-changing app or AI-based tech to the marketplace, a hundred other companies may beat you to the punch. You can’t wait around because the benefits of being first are too great.

For me, I didn’t want to start just any language translation company. When we decided to create our business, I knew there were literally 10,000 other companies in the translation space. While there were a handful of larger organisations, such as Euramerica, most of them were one-to-five-person shops, started and run by linguists who were so busy translating, they couldn’t grow their businesses. We were set on starting a different kind of translation company, to be a pioneer in the space. We wouldn’t be satisfied to just be in the business; we wanted to create the biggest and the best, the world’s leader, with the most versatile and robust solutions and be the most client-centric one-stop shop. We wanted to disrupt the industry.

Our overall goal was specific – to create the world’s premier language solutions company. We knew the only way we’d achieve this was by setting measurable goals with deadlines and holding ourselves accountable for meeting them. When I say holding ourselves accountable, I mean working constantly in the early years, because that is what it took to meet our objectives.

We wanted to go big to win big and this is what it took. I wish I could tell you about the shortcuts we employed, but there were none. If you want massive success, you’re going to have to put in massive effort, for an extended period of time. And there’s nothing sexy about it. It’s working to satisfy a goal until you worry you can’t go any further and then pushing on anyway.

 This is an edited extract from Dream Big and Win: Translating Passion into Purpose and Creating a Billion-Dollar Business by Liz Elting (published by Wiley).

Liz Elting is the founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation and a New York-based philanthropist and businesswoman. She is also a co-founder of TransPerfect, the world’s largest provider of language and technology solutions for global business

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