Talent Programmes For Hulk, Iron Man And Thor

Jun 19, 2015 1 Min Read

Photo credit (above): marvelousRoland | Flickr

How would you align talent and motives?

“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could…” – Nick Fury, superspy and recruiter of The Avengers

With that idea in mind, Nick Fury formed a strong team of superheroes with Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Though they were remarkable (and imperfect), Nick had different challenges with each of them.

Very much like the Avengers, we often find that an organisation’s high potentials come with their own challenges. Let’s focus on the alignment of talent and motives of an individual and how we can approach it.


Defining motives and talents

Werner Barkhuizen, chief executive officer of Saville Consulting defines Motives (M) as what you need or enjoy doing; and Talent (T) as the behaviours you are effective in.

We often say you’ll do well in what you enjoy. Is it always true?

In our workplace, do we always find pleasure in what we do well? Is there an alignment between our M and T?

With these questions in mind, how then does it impact an organisation’s plan for development and succession planning of their talent pool?


Superheroes at work

Taking the cue from our favourite Marvel characters, every organisation has their talent pool of Avengers. They have gifts, superpowers, gadgets, and skills that are unique to them.

Unlike our identified talents, some superheroes fully (and happily) leverage on what they have, some desire more and there are others who battle within themselves to use their superpowers.

In our talent management and succession planning efforts, we sometimes forget an important synergy that should exist in an individual – the Talent-Motive Alignment.

In most assessments, we often observe only what we can visually see – the talents – the competencies, skills and knowledge displayed by an individual.

An individual may show some level of competency in leading others, developing strategies, or presenting during these assessments.

However, in most conventional assessments, the motives of the individual is not apparent. Hence we don’t know if the top performer with the good presentation skill actually enjoys doing it or wants to continue leveraging it as a key skill in his career.

Motives or a person’s aspiration (or the lack of it) can only be discovered with some friendly interrogation.


Where organisations fail

When planning for development and succession, many companies fail to consider this area – the alignment of what the candidates in question are good at and what they enjoy doing.

This can be translated into fully understanding their aspirations while at the same time spotting derailment and development opportunities.

Having understood all these aspects of a person will also help us gauge the individual’s fit into the company culture. The job and culture fit then plays a big role in giving us an indication of retention probability of the person.

At Leaderonomics, we create a few platforms in our assessments that allow us to discover, validate and, if necessary, shape the motives of a high-performing individual.

With these platforms, we are able to advise clients accordingly on the suitability of an individual for a future role and the development that is required. This also helps us zoom into areas very pertinent to the individual during their coaching sessions.


Superheroes: Identified and assessed

Let’s look at the common three scenarios that we find among the high potential candidates and the recommended development plans.


1. The Incredible Hulk – High T, Low M

The Hulk is indestructible. That makes him almost more powerful than Captain America and Thor. However, he rather retreats to Calcutta as Dr Bruce Banner than try to leverage on his strengths, confining himself in his own cave of fear.

At times, we have Hulks among our high potentials too. They may be very competent in an area of work but have little interest in putting those skills to use.

It could be someone who shows much talent in public speaking but turns down such opportunities.

One may say, ‘I’m good in analysing data’ (T) but ‘I’m not interested to do so’ (M). Here we see that their motive to perform is not as high as their talent.

Looking deeper, there can be a few reasons for this:

  • They feel that in their current role, they need to focus on other skills.
  • They may have leveraged on these skills previously but saw no benefits to it.
  • They may feel that they are not appreciated for their strengths, hence have taken a step back from wanting to do what they are good at.

Hulk’s reasons were clear. He was initially afraid of the unknown if he were to transform into the Hulk.

At some point, he was also fearful of those who would want to misuse him and his strengths.

Action plan:

It is important for the coach/mentor to zoom into this and allow the individual to share more about why they have lost interest in their areas of strength.

When someone has no will to perform, it often starts with a simple reason of discouragement or lack of support.

More importantly, look out for hints of derailment or burnout should there be more than one area where the T is higher than the M.

At its worse, if the individual is not interested in doing what he is good at, a counsellor can be called in to assess the possibility of depression.

After identifying and removing the obstacle(s) hindering them from enjoying what they are good at, it’s also a good opportunity to find out if this individual is in the right job which allows him to maximise his strengths.


2. Iron Man – High M, Low T

Iron Man may not have super strengths but is very intelligent and displays high-learning agility. He constantly wants more and seeks opportunities to improve himself through his power suit, literally.

Similarly, we have high performers who show a lot of potential but is not quite there yet. The good thing is that they have an eagerness to learn and be better (M), yet they acknowledge that their current skills set (T) is not on par.

Action plan:
For the Iron Man in your organisation, this signals a good opportunity to focus your development on the key areas that they have shown interest.

This is the best time to develop them through experiential learning such as workshops, projects, mentoring, as they are eager to learn.

For these high potentials where their M is higher than their T, they probably enjoy the challenge of a steep learning curve with very little help.

However, you may find that there are high potentials in your team who may inherit the egoistic side of Iron Man, i.e they don’t get along in a team and like to work alone.

Although they are very eager to learn, their attitude may get in the way. Try putting aside your frustrations dealing with someone as such.

As a coach/mentor, it helps to highlight the bigger picture of his role in the organisation and what he can improve on.


3. Thor – T-M Alignment

Unlike Hulk and Iron Man, Thor is very much at peace with his powers, is not hesitant to fully leverage on his strength and is ready to fight when needed.

Thor is more balanced and he seems to have self-awareness of his strengths and limitations.

This is an instance of when one’s skills match his interests – what Peter Saville of Saville Consulting calls a Talent-Motive alignment.

Action plan:
When our high potentials know where their interests lie and have developed their skills to a desired level, they tend to be more confident in executing their tasks.

The challenge for human resources is to ensure that this level of talent and motivation is sustainable and sufficient for future roles.

When leveraging on the Thors in your team, remember to reward them accordingly in career/growth opportunities and remuneration.

This helps the company retain such talents without making them feel like The Hulk – having to downplay his powers to avoid others from taking advantage of him.

Although Thor is at his peak now and will likely contribute immeasurably more than others, his needs need to be taken care of too.


In summary

The effectiveness and success of your talent management plans depends on how you are currently addressing and managing the gaps between the motive and talent of your Iron Man and Hulk.

One of the beauty of the Avengers is that they are a combination of different characters, but once they are united in purpose (i.e. saving the world), it brings all their strengths to the forefront and their limitations are covered for by each other.

Similarly, help your pool of high potentials to see a common goal that is beneficial to them and the organisation at large.

So, the next time you plan your talent management or succession plans, be Nick Fury! Be the recruiter of your company’s own team of Avengers by considering these:

  • Be transparent in your talent identification process to assess strengths, limitations and aspiration of your ‘superheroes’.
  • Put in place measures that can help you assess the talent and motives alignment of each one of them before you plan for their development.

These may help you identify and effectively harness the capabilities of the Hulks, Iron Men and Thors among your midst. This comprehensive talent programme will help you build stronger teams.

All the best!



Elisa Dass Avin pioneered the Leaderonomics Talent Assessment Division and utilised various platforms and tools to ascertain the motive-talent alignment of individuals to help them be at their best. To get in touch with our assessment team, email info@leaderonomics.com. For more HR Talk articles, click here.

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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