New scientific evidence has emerged that your hard work may not be paying off. At least in the eyes of those observing you.  

A study from the University College London states there "may be a preference for 'naturals' over 'strivers' in performance judgments."

This part, to me, makes sense. When we observe a virtuoso performance, we marvel at the performance, not the effort. We only see someone who makes it look easy. We don't immediately think of all the steps it took for Mark Cuban to become a judge on Shark Tank. We just assume he landed there on pure talent.

In our age of social media, many entrepreneurs document every move - each step we take and every extra ounce of "hustle" in the process is out there for the world to see. The intense beat of startup life may be doing a profound disservice to our businesses and careers. 

According to the study, "people tend to pass over better-qualified individuals in favor of apparent naturals." 

While I don't dispute the findings, I wrestle with the notion that those seen as hard workers may be viewed in negative light. But yet, when I challenge myself to dig deeper, I can recall many times when I dismissed high performance as a gift to the one performing.  

The study goes even further, stating that "despite being presented with entrepreneurs equal in achievement" those perceived as naturals are selected.  

In the entrepreneurial world, you could point to overachievers like Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary exploded onto the digital scene in 2008 as if from nowhere.  I know, I was in the audience at his breakout keynote session for the Web 2.0 conference. 

In reality, Gary didn't land on stage at the Web 2.0 conference with supernatural business savvy. In fact, he had spent years toiling in obscurity while building his family wine business from $4million a year to over $50million.  

But to those in the audience that day - it did in fact, seem so. Could this be the magic behind Gary's success? Who knows? 

The implications of this study are profound for your career, and your business. 

If you're managing a team, this research should inform you as a manager. Perhaps those who seem like naturals aren't the most competent. 

If you're running your own business, you should never lose sight of your own climb to the top.  Understanding the effort it took for you to get to where you are, should help inform your perception of those who struggle to excel. This understanding will inform your hiring, and management decisions. 

If you've reached a certain level of success, it may be more important than ever to speak to your team, and clients about your path.  Sharing your journey, hardships and hard work will help break down your aura of natural talent. 

How else do you think this research may impact your career or business? 

 

Published on: Jan 19, 2016
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