Ap­pre­ci­at­ing a per­son’s abil­i­ties

South Shore Breaker - - Sports - LIAM TAYLER BREAK­ING BUSI­NESS DOWN liam.tayler@smes­o­lu­tions.ca

When I started my first busi­ness, I ended up con­nect­ing with a men­tor who was to be­come the sec­ond-most in­flu­en­tial in­di­vid­ual in my pro­fes­sional life (af­ter my fa­ther). A big, burly bearded York­shire man who taught me two valu­able lessons:

1. “Never pick any­one up from the air­port in any­thing other than your he­li­copter un­less it is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.”

2. “Don’t try and teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and an­noys the pig.”

The first les­son has a some­what lim­ited ap­pli­ca­tion as not many of us are in the en­vi­able po­si­tion of own­ing our own he­li­copter, but the sec­ond has helped me in a myr­iad of sit­u­a­tions.

Sim­ply trans­lated, it means: find the strengths in peo­ple and make sure you play to their abil­i­ties — not at­tack their weak­nesses — oth­er­wise you’ll just end up frus­trat­ing your­self and them.

Through­out my pro­fes­sional life, I have seen man­agers try and force in­di­vid­u­als into the wrong po­si­tions or work­ing en­vi­ron­ments with se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

I came to rec­og­nize that ev­ery­one has their area of ex­per­tise and work­ing meth­ods; some peo­ple just aren’t com­fort­able with num­bers, some aren’t com­fort­able with peo­ple, some are com­fort­able in an open of­fice, some work bet­ter in a cu­bi­cle.

What I teach my chil­dren when they are frus­trated with a task is that peo­ple are good at dif­fer­ent things and in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments. Al­bert Ein­stein’s al­leged quote: “If you judge a fish by its abil­ity to climb a tree, it will live its whole life be­liev­ing that it is stupid,” is true in the hu­man re­source world, too.

There was one per­son I man­aged in my first po­si­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity, he was pos­si­bly the most in­tel­li­gent per­son I have ever known, yet never passed any exam (he barely at­tended school) and sin­gle­hand­edly de­signed an en­tire re­mote ac­cess router-based I.T. net­work­ing sys­tem in more than 30 lo­ca­tions (this was al­most pre-in­ter­net and there­fore, even more im­pres­sive). But could you get him into the of­fice by 8 a.m? Not a hope!

It took me a while to rec­og­nize this, but even­tu­ally, in­stead of forc­ing him in on time (which re­sulted in a surly, in­com­mu­nica­tive, vis­i­bly un­com­fort­able and frankly, scary, in­di­vid­ual), we of­fered him the op­tion of start­ing his day at 10 a.m. and leav­ing a cou­ple of hours af­ter ev­ery­one else. Within days, he was hap­pier, more re­laxed and as a re­sult — sig­nif­i­cantly more pro­duc­tive.

It wasn’t only the ef­fect on his pro­fes­sional de­meanour which was star­tling, he be­came a gen­er­ally cheerier per­son; he smiled more and was chat­tier and more open with co-work­ers and cus­tomers. So, what about this small of­fer of flex­i­bil­ity had so much im­pact on him? It can’t just have been the ex­tra hour or so in bed in the morn­ing?

This of­fer had made him feel ap­pre­ci­ated! He felt val­ued in that we rec­og­nized that he was just not made for early morn­ings. He was Ein­stein’s metaphor­i­cal fish in a tree who needed flex­i­bil­ity in his en­vi­ron­ment.

So, ap­pre­ci­ate peo­ple’s in­nate nat­u­ral abil­i­ties and en­cour­age them. If they are forced into rou­tines and sit­u­a­tions that make them un­com­fort­able, no one wins!


Ev­ery­one’s work abil­i­ties are dif­fer­ent and should be re­spected as such. Liam has been an en­tre­pre­neur and busi­ness con­sul­tant since he started his first e-com­merce busi­ness in Spain in 2001. Since then, he has worked around the globe in var­i­ous mar­kets.

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