How to Recognize and Build Upon Your Talents

Worried that you’re just not cut out for entrepreneurship? Don’t be.

Gallup’s Entrepreneurial Profile 10 (EP10) assessment has outlined the top ten talents of entrepreneurs and each and every one of us has them within us.

As Mona Anita Olsen, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, puts it: “Entrepreneurship is for everyone.”

Olsen joined eCornell’s Chris Wofford to discuss the EP10 assessment and how it can be used to provide a better understanding of anyone’s entrepreneurial talents and how they can be put to use in any work setting. What follows is an abridged version of their conversation.

Olsen: At the School of Hotel Administration, we have been promoting entrepreneurship to students at all levels. That’s where the EP10 comes in.

We’ve provided the opportunity for all freshmen, transfers and masters students to take this assessment at no cost. They can then take the results and come to a session on how to actually analyze those results. The main motivation behind it is to plant a seed that entrepreneurship can be part of your journey no matter where you go – whether you’re trying to innovate within a corporation or starting your own venture.

Wofford: What exactly does the EP10 assess?

Olsen: When thinking about the EP10 and its application to entrepreneurship, I want to first make sure we’re on the same page about the word entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur organizes, manages and assumes risk. Entrepreneurship is the capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with its risks in order to make a profit.

There are ten talents that the EP10 assesses: confidence, delegator, determination, disruptor, independence, knowledge, profitability, relationship, risk and selling.

This is an online assessment, not a test. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete and it costs $12, so it is not a huge investment in terms of time or money. You can take it anywhere and at the end you get an assessment of those ten talents and they will be ranked in order of your highest score. So this really helps you identify your greatest natural strengths.

Gallup has studied entrepreneurship for a long time and they came up with the unique talents that successful entrepreneurs possess. Remember, talents are different from personality traits and encompass attitudes, motives, cognition and values. Entrepreneurs have certain business outcomes that they’re trying to reach and Gallup tried to figure out how the talents impact those business outcomes.

Wofford: How did you first get involved with the EP10?

Olsen: I was in Omaha in December to get certified as an administrator for the EP10 and there was this question on the wall that really struck me: “What would happen if we studied what is right with people versus what is wrong with people?”

It really struck me that not only is strength-based education training really important, there are also a lot of links between happiness and and being more productive in the workforce. Leveraging your talents actually influences your performance.

Wofford: I’m curious about some of the terms. Take profitability, for instance. How do you assess that for someone who has not necessarily gone out and generated profits themselves? Similarly, a term like ‘risk’ can be perceived very differently.

Olsen: OK, let’s look at the talents and their definitions. Let’s start with confidence, which is defined as the ability to accurately know yourself and to understand others.

A delegator is someone who recognizes that they can’t do everything themselves. Personally, that’s something that I struggle with.

Determination is a term that people usually understand – you persevere through difficulties and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. You’ll note that entrepreneurs actually love obstacles. They love being able to get through those challenges.

A disruptor is someone who exhibits creativity and takes an idea or existing product and turns it into something better. A lot of people will use disruptor synonymously with innovator but they’re not the same. With a disruptor, we’re talking about the creativity to bring value to an existing idea or product.

Independence is doing whatever needs to be done to be successful in a venture. This is a talent that’s ranked highly for most entrepreneurs.

Knowledge means that you’re constantly searching for information that is relevant to growing your business. You see this in almost all of the students that take the assessment.

To your previous question, when we talk about profitability we’re talking about making decisions based on an observed or anticipated effect on profit. In other words, you’re always thinking about how your decisions are going to impact the bottom line.

Relationship is assessing social awareness and the ability to build beneficial relationships. Naturally connecting people.

Selling is the ability to be persuasive and really be a champion for pitching an idea.

Risk refers not to taking a risk, but rather how to manage risk. How to instinctively deal with high-risk situations.

Wofford: Most of those definitions are pretty intuitive, I guess.

Olsen: Yes, but you’re right that people might have their own definitions for these terms so it’s good to establish what they mean in this context.

Now, once you do the assessment you will essentially be given a top four. Your top four talents will be weighted and then it will basically align your results with one of three entrepreneurial styles.

So you’re either relational, strategic or activation oriented. The difference between those last two is that strategic is more about planning while activation is getting things done.

At the end of the assessment, you’ll get this full report that includes your top four talents and your entrepreneurial style. It goes through each of the different talents that you have and gives you scenarios in which you might actually use those talents in your work environment.

Wofford: If you don’t mind me asking, what were your results?

Olsen: In my case, I have the activation style. What’s great about the assessment is not just that it gives you your top four talents but that it also helps you identify some of the areas in which you are not as strong.

Wofford: OK, so let’s say I’ve just gotten back the results of my assessment. Now what?

Olsen: There are many different things you can do. The first thing I usually ask students to do is to map their talent. I ask them to draw an inner circle, where they put their top four talents. In the second circle, they identify the next three and then the bottom talents are put in the last outer circle.

Why is it important to do that? Well, first, it’s important to really look at yourself and sort of accept where you are before you decide what you might want to do with the results.

If you know your talents, when was the last time you used them? How many times do you use your top talents on any given day or week or month?

If you’re not using them, how would doing so impact your work? Would you be more effective in whatever role you’re in? If you are using these talents on a more routine basis, how can you consciously work toward putting these talents forward?

When you have your results, you can you ask yourself how you are going to use these talents in a team setting. Understanding yourself before getting into a group makes you a more effective group member and also enables you or the group leader to strategically think about how to use your talents.

Wofford: So this isn’t solely about self-improvement or self-understanding, there is a team benefit to this as well?

Olsen: Absolutely. You can actually use the results to make team maps, where you map out the top four talents of all your team members. This can be very helpful in a startup situation because you can look at the talents that are necessary to be successful as entrepreneurs and determine which ones your team is really strong at and how to take advantage of that. You can also identify areas that might prove to be blind spots for your team.

Wofford: If your team map results showed that nobody is prepared to delegate, that would obviously be a problem.

Olsen: Exactly. Going through these assessments can be a great team-building tool.

Wofford: A question from the audience came in that really jumped out at me. It asked whether you’re likely to see immediate changes in someone’s behavior after they’ve taken the assessment.

Olsen: I think it makes you more mindful of what you’re doing on a daily basis. In my case, I might think that maybe the reason someone responded to me in a certain way is because my risk tolerance is so high that I’m willing to push something forward even when I know there’s going to be pushback. It’s made me more mindful of how I come across to others.

Recognizing my talents also helps me to focus on the most effective ways for me to spend my time and how I can be the most productive by leveraging these very naturally-developed talents that I have.

Wofford: It must also help to expose some deficiencies so you know what sorts of things you need to improve upon.

Olsen: Absolutely. It’s only natural to spend some time thinking about the talent that you scored the lowest on, especially if the results were surprising. But it’s important to remember that it’s all relative. For example, you could actually be a very strong delegator but it’s just not as strong as the other nine talents. It’s human nature to focus on areas that need improvement. It is important to be aware of your weaknesses but you shouldn’t let them overshadow your strengths.

Wofford: We’re just about out of time – any parting words?

Olsen: First of all, if you haven’t taken the assessment yet, go to the Gallup site and take it. It’s only $12 and it will take you less than 30 minutes. Before you take it, I think it can be very helpful to predict your four top talents and then try to analyze how your assessment results either matched your expectations or surprised you.

My challenge for all of you is to think about how you can use your talents at least once every single day. If you do that consistently over a week or two, will you see any results in your productivity or in your happiness or just in feeling like you’re very effective with the talents that you bring to the table?

Wofford: Mona, thank you so much. I also want to thank the audience and again, if you haven’t taken the assessment, go out there and do it!

Olsen: Thanks, Chris.

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Mona Anita Olsen’s live eCornell WebSeries event,The Entrepreneurial Profile: Buidling On Your TalentsSubscribe now gain access to a recording of this event and other Entrepreneurship topics.