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White Collar Muscle Memory: Can You Fix What You Suck At In Your Career?

If there's an interesting debate in the world of talent, it has to be whether the talent you hire can fix things they are bad at - or even if they should try.  After all, if the love-fest to Marcus Buckingham and StrengthFinders has taught us anything, we love to say that weaknesses shouldn't matter.

Then we find a weakness and assasinate you for it.  Welcome to corporate America, chump.  Oh, we read the book and will talk about it in glowing fashion, but hey -
TebowBaby5F you suck at that thing.  We can't ignore that.

Of course, whether something that's broken with a candidate is fixable or not - that really has more to do what what the item is, right?

Is the candidate shortcoming a tactical thing they can fix?  Or is it deeply embeded in their DNA?  To give you an example, consider the world of NFL quarterbacks and Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick in last spring's NFL Draft.  More from ESPN:

"During summer work, Titans coaches pointed out a glitch in Marcus Mariota's dropbacks to handoffs.

It's something they discussed with him, and they said they'd work out upon his return for training camp. But in the team's first practice Friday, quarterbacks coach John McNulty noticed the problem was gone.

Running backs coach Sylvester Croom noticed it, too, and sauntered up to McNulty to say, "I think he took that stuff to heart."

"There were a couple things in his footwork with the run game, and now he's got it aced," McNulty said. "So obviously he worked on that over the five weeks."

So Mariota altered his footwork on handoffs.  I'd tell you that's the equivalent of one of your managers doing a better job at level-setting/setting expectations at the start of meetings.  You are in control.  You initiate the action.  There's very little chance of varibles coming in that make you revert to what you're comfortable with.

Marota can alter footwork on handoffs.  But Tim Tebow couldn't alter his throwing motion to become NFL ready.

Why is that?  Because dropping back to throw a pass in the NFL is chaos - with giants bearing down on you and trying to end your career.  Under that type of pressure, we rely on what's embedded most deeply in us.  Tebow couldn't practice new technique enough to overcome this reality.

What about your employees?  You can teach them successfully to do small things that they're in control of.  But when the #### really hits the fan and things are unscripted, you can't change who they are.

What do you suck at?  Can you fix it?  If it's small enough, the answer is yes.  If it's a broader theme that transcends many different types of situations in your career, the answer is likely no.

If you try to fix the big things, you're going to look like Tebow.  Better to find the right environment for how you throw the football, ummm - how you're wired behaviorally. 


Lauren Mathers

This is a great post! Corporate jobs can become tedious and monotonous. They have a day in and day out repetition and employees can become automated, robotic, and eventually burnout. Thanks corporate America. I believe HR departments and companies, like Ultimate Software , would find it wise to give their employees access to blogs and tips, such as yours to help with the muscle memory. Giving employees fresh perspective and avoiding negative criticism is important in maintaining morale. Thanks for this!

Lauren Mathers

Recruiting Animal

Good article. I don't know how true it is but to some extent it's certainly true.

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