The Right Talent Cannot Shine in the Wrong Role

By Marshall Goldsmith

You can be a one-trick-genius, or OTG, by narrowing down what you’re really good at. 

Let’s look at why the right OTG talent can’t shine in the wrong role. 

When Sandy Ogg, the founder of, a consulting firm committed to changing the game of human capital, was working at Unilever and tried to link talent to value at Unilever, he discovered that he was overlooking an important ingredient — specifically, the role people were being asked to assume. If you have talented people in the wrong role, their talent is wasted and they will fail. No amount of talent can overcome an inappropriate role. 

Marshall Goldsmith Meme

In Sandy’s research, he found that 57 people out of 300,000 employees contributed to 90% of the value of the company. Actually, his insight wasn’t that Unilever didn’t have 57 people out of 300,000 employees who contributed 90 percent of the value at the company — Unilever had 57 roles making that outsized contribution. Sandy’s job was to sync each of those roles with the right person. When that happened, he could feel a “click,” as if he were locking his seatbelt. Failure to click was failure to create value. 

It’s the same in an individual’s life. Each of us assumes various roles in life: partner, colleague, parent, friend, sibling, son, daughter. We intuitively know that the behavior we display in one role is not necessarily productive in another role, which is one reason we don’t talk to our spouse the way we ‘talk’ to a direct report. 

But being in sync with our role requires more from us: 

  • Are we adding value in each of those relationships? 
  • Do our efforts to add value in the role align with our abilities? 
  • And finally, does the role matter to us? Is it something we gladly put on when we wake up each morning, not grudgingly accept because we have no other options? 

When the three answers align at yes, we have a much better chance of finding our OTG. 

Marshall Goldsmith Meme
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