Everyone wants to be excited at work and feel they are achieving peak performance. It’s not easy to achieve.

I work with extraordinary leaders all the time and one of their constant frustrations is that their employees don’t act as CEOs of their careers. CEOs feel responsible for their team’s performance, but they also feel overwhelmed by the idea that it’s their job to figure out what creates peak performance. One of the myths that I want to crush is that CEOs are 100 percent responsible for the talent management of their teams. If that sounds controversial, that’s because  it's meant to.

Sure, CEOs and managers are in positions of authority. But the notion that their opinion of an employee’s abilities is the final word is false. What they overlook is the in-depth knowledge an employee can bring to the table about themselves and their true talents.

What I want to present to you is a new model that I call “50/50 Leadership.” One manager can’t know every single employee as well as they know themselves. For the manager to be the sole source of in-depth career support is not only unrealistic, it’s unfair to the employees. Something happens when people start working for someone else. I call it unconscious helplessness: You unconsciously expect your boss to take over your career trajectory.

Here is the rub, and what you should impart to your employees: No one but you can know the depth of your talent and purpose. The problem is that most of us don’t spend the time to understand ourselves, so we are desperate for every morsel of feedback or advice. Don’t get me wrong, feedback can be helpful, but only when it’s in addition to what you know about yourself. For example, say you’re a talented engineer stuck in a non-analytical role that doesn’t leverage your analytic brilliance. You get feedback that you're not doing a good job, which makes you think you're in the wrong job. But getting that seemingly negative feedback without an awareness that analytics is your natural strength can erode your self-confidence quickly.

This gets to my point -- that bosses are not responsible for knowing what every employee is best at. Bosses can make an educated guess and share opinions, but it’s much more powerful when you empower your employees to say, "This is what my genius is, this is how you can leverage me for achieving your goals." As the boss, you can then have a conversation together about how you can help maximize those talents and purpose. It’s in everyone’s best interest, especially your company’s.

How can you go about doing that with your staff? Offer them this short exercise, to help them learn more about themselves and take the first step at becoming their own CEOs.

1) Ask your most trusted colleagues the following questions: What is my unique approach to the work that I do? Can you be specific and give me detailed examples of how my approach is different?

2) Ask yourself: What is your company's mission statement? Figure it out and rewrite it to align with your personal mission statement. Tie what the company is doing for its customers and the world into a statement that personalizes it for you. Then share this with your manager. It is evidence that you are passionate about the company's purpose and that it’s personal to you, which means you are more likely to outperform someone who is not.

Unleashing a team of individual CEOs doesn’t happen overnight, but by asking the right questions and having purposeful conversations, your company will be on much stronger footing -- with a happy and fulfilled team to boot.

Published on: Jan 29, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.