To Promote Self or to Serve Others? The Difference Between Raw and Mature Talent

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

My son Eli was born competitive. I didn’t have to teach him to want to win.

When he was two, he was already determined to make the bedtime routine a race with his brother. At four, he was begging us every morning to play board games with him. And today, at seven years old, he can’t stand it when someone is "beating" our car as we drive through town.

“UGH! Go faster, Mom! They’re winning!”

He views the world as one big competition and he’s determined to be the best.

We try to affirm him in this as much as we can because this orientation for competition gives him a desire for excellence in all things. He’s motivated, driven, and measurement-oriented. We can celebrate that.

But here’s the deal.

When he loses, run for cover. He places so much of his identity in winning that he doesn’t handle losing with a lot of maturity.

At least not yet. We’re working on it.

But that competition thing?

He gets that from me.

I’ve always enjoyed competitions and measuring my progress against the progress of my peers. While this has served me well in both my personal and professional life and I can connect my dominant Competition theme to many of my previous successes, it’s also gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years.

When I’m acting selfishly, my sense of self is seriously compromised when I’m not the best. At times, I can even view others who are top performers as threats to my success instead of as valuable team members who inspire me to be better.

Yes, our talents can both help and hinder us.

And they can be used to promote self or to serve others.

They can be raw or mature. This blog will explore the nature of talent, discuss the differences between raw and mature talent, and provide you with some simple strategies you can implement today to mature your talent themes into strengths.

What is Talent?

The Gallup Organization defines talents as naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Our talents explain why we’re repeatedly drawn to some activities over others, why we’re better at some things than others, and why we pick up some activities faster than others.

Our talents help us filter our world.

If you have a Strategic talent, you’re always thinking a few moves ahead of everyone else. You see the whole chess board and intuitively sense all the relevant possibilities and paths moving forward. You don’t have to think hard or long to reroute. You just do it.

If you have a Woo talent, you are socially courageous, effortlessly build rapport with others, and put people at ease within moments of meeting you. You don’t have to try hard to build a connection with others. You just do it.

If you have an Individualization talent, you have a gift for figuring out how people can work together productively. You are the Sherlock Holmes of people, intrigued by the unique qualities of each person you meet. You don’t have to work hard to understand others’ motivations, patterns of behavior, or personalities. You just do it.

Our talent themes help us understand ourselves, but just because we have talent doesn’t mean we are reaching our full potential in that area or context. In fact, if we don’t assume responsibility for using and refining our talents, we’ll never develop them into strengths.

Raw & Mature Talent

According to the Gallup Organization:

Raw talent is talent that is uninformed, inexperienced, self-oriented, and often unproductive.
Mature talent is talent that is well-informed, practiced, oriented toward others, and highly productive.

For example, consider the following:

Discipline Talent: People especially talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure.

  • Raw: If my world is out of order, I'm a mess.

  • Mature: When someone's world is a mess, I can help restore the order.

Maximizer Talent: People especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

  • Raw: Impatient with weakness & critical of those who are weak.

  • Mature: Grateful stewardship of that which is strong.

Relator Talent: People especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

  • Raw: Most comfortable with one's friends.

  • Mature: Most able to comfort one's friends.

Intellection talent: People especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

  • Raw: My need for introspection keeps me from interaction.

  • Mature: My deep self-reflection is a prelude to deep conversation.

I'm not a naturally creative person and I rarely see things from an "out-of-the-box" perspective. That's definitely one of my weaknesses. But lacking creativity rarely gets me in trouble.

But you know what does get me in trouble? Operating from a place of raw talent instead of mature talent. Just like my son, I can be a SORE loser if I'm using my talent theme to promote self instead of to serve others. My raw talent is typically much more problematic than my weaknesses.

How do you build mature talent?

If we want to build strength, we’ve got to exercise or “flex” our talent themes. We recommend the following strategies for building mature talent:

  1. Study. Learn as much as you can from mentors and coaches with similar talents and passions. Take courses and read books that focus on your talent areas. Acquire tools and resources that will serve you well as you leverage your talents in your personal and professional life.

  2. Practice. Say yes to opportunities that align with your talents. Discover ways to point your talent at specific goals and outcomes in various roles you fill, whether personally or professionally. Figure out ways to do more of what comes naturally to you.

  3. Regulate. Learn to anticipate negative perceptions that others might have of you based on your dominant talents. Consider the ways your talent themes can help and hinder you in your roles. Introduce your talents to others before they introduce you.

  4. Serve. Move from a “me” focus to a “we” focus. Consider how you can serve others with the unique giftings and talents you bring to the table. Concentrate on using your talents to serve a greater vision, mission, and purpose.

What can you do today to mature your talent themes?

We’d love to hear from you about ways you’re investing in strengths and building meaningful working relationships with others. Leave us a comment below or visit our website.

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We help leaders and organizations build happy and healthy workplaces, prevent low employee engagement and lead with a strengths-based approach to personal and team development.