How to uncover, hone and retain talent

Human beings are basically a brain. I know it feels more like we are actually a body because so much of life is about sensation. But the truth is that all of our experience, our emotions, our drives and motivations, are hopes and our fears, our memories and goals, all live in the brain.

It’s not too much of a stretch to think of our bodies as a receptacle for our brain that is simply there to transport, feed, protect, and reproduce future generations of brains that include our DNA.

Why am I asking you to think about the brain in a blog about talent? Because so much of getting it right with talent depends on nurturing the psychology of the talent we wish to attract, develop and retain. Getting this right has a far greater impact than anything else you can do.



Finding and uncovering talent is about releasing latent potential. Most humans operate far within what they are truly capable of. Our unnecessarily limited ideas about what we are capable of trap us all beneath the glass ceilings of our self belief. This is not because we lack courage or vision, or even because we consciously undervalue our own worth. It is an unconscious process that results from life experiences teaching us that sometimes, perhaps often, we do not get the outcomes we were hoping for. And it is a truth about the human condition that no amount of striving, wanting, willpower and goal setting will enable us to exceed our unconscious limiting beliefs, except perhaps briefly.

Releasing latent potential begins with individuals grasping intellectually and emotionally that they are genuinely capable of more than they might think. There are plenty of examples in our shared experience and culture to win this discussion. Sometimes all it takes is to remind people of their friends and colleagues in whom they personally see more capability then the people themselves. And then pointing out that they are exactly the same. And you can always draw upon the science.

It is then a relatively simple step to teach them how to replace their limiting beliefs with more enabling self knowledge that more accurately describes our true potential. This is the process of cognitive restructuring I’ve described in other articles.

There are many benefits to people getting closer to their true potential. Obviously anything that improves key individual’s performance is good for the employer. Equally it’s good for the person concerned! The sense of mastery and achievement, coupled with growing confidence in one’s ability to accomplish aspirational goals, is transformational and deeply inspiring. Working for an employer that gives you such a life enhancing experience is a wonderful thing. People become enthusiastic ambassadors, and their evangelising about the firm acts as a magnet to attract other talented people.



Over the past 30 years research has repeatedly shown that the most important workplace skill is emotional intelligence. (Defined as the ability to understand and manage ones shifting emotions, and to have a feel for the views and emotions of other people, including regulating one’s impact upon them).

What do I mean by important? I mean value adding, performance enhancing, the single most key factor in leadership effectiveness, and the learnable skill that delivers the biggest benefits and improved teamwork, followership, influencing, and selling. These are all research results.

The keyword in the last paragraph is learnable. A lot of emotional intelligence training focuses on behaviour. This unquestionably adds value but may not address a fundamental point. Of the two aspects of emotional intelligence, self and others, the latter is by far the more challenging to get right. It depends on learning to focus on others. Not just when things are going well, but when one is facing adverse circumstances.

At such times human beings automatically and unconsciously centre their awareness upon themselves. In other words they lose the focus on others which is essential to showing emotional intelligence. Avoiding this inbuilt vulnerability requires us to build both resilience and high self-esteem. Interventions that boost those two qualities  add huge amounts of perceived value.



There are many invaluable conclusions from the work of Daniel Goldman and others in the arena of organisational behaviour. Of particular relevance to this discussion is the fact that the supervisor relationship is the key factor in determining how long an employee stays with their employer.

Technological advances in digitalisation and communication in recent years had led to a situation were the job market for talent is more mobile than ever before. Information about employers (including you), and multiple attractive job opportunities, are all highly visible online through social media and recruitment platforms. I don’t need to tell you this, it might very well be part of why you are reading this article!

Talent is more mobile than ever before. And talented people are more choosy and less tolerant of circumstances which they think can be improved upon. Whether this is because of the information revolution or other factors, is irrelevant. We need to react to the facts of the situation.

Leadership values that value and respect humans are now more than ever going to play a critical part in the battle for talent. The behaviour of supervisors and managers with responsibility for leading talented employees is critical. Retaining talent goes far beyond creating appealing workplace environments, attractive benefits and well-being programmes. Far more important is that people feel respected undervalued.

In my experience the majority of leaders understand this well. But it has to be said not all of them do. It is incredibly important to ensure that leaders’ behaviour, particularly when facing extreme stress or adverse conditions, retains at its core the respect and Grace people now expect in the workplace. Resiliently embedding modern wholesome values in our intermediate and junior leaders is yet another application of cognitive restructuring.

The responsibility for treating others well extends beyond leaders to colleagues throughout the entire organisation. People are equally sensitive to the pervasive culture of an organisation as they are to leadership values. Let’s face it no one is going to choose a critical or negative emotional climate over a positive and supportive one if they have the option. This is part of why creating an enlightened and caring business culture has long been known to deliver superior financial performance.



Few would argue with the uplifting idea behind Kennedy’s famous quotation about country. However, in the battle for talent, it behoves us to ask what can we, the company, do for our talent.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved - Graham Keen

Website Designed, Developed & Hosted by Mantra Media