Chuck Martin wrote the book, literally, on rethinking the way executives need to evaluate their employees’ talents. Entitled “Smarts: Are We Hardwired for Success,” Martin’s New York Times bestseller posits the seemingly obvious idea that our individual brains have their own unchangeable strengths and weaknesses.
And yet, following the human tendency to want to fix what’s wrong rather than indulge what’s right, business executives, teachers, and bosses have for years sent people off to training seminars hoping to bolster weak spots. The usual result is that performance evaluations say exactly the same things year after year. Employees who have trouble managing time or low stress tolerance come back from these seminars with a bag of tricks that stay in the bag because they don’t know how to use them. And all the while that employee’s strengths are taken for granted.
“You can’t really change a weakness,” Martin says. “It’s almost like dealing with someone’s height, you can’t really change it. Well, you’re brain is your brain.”
Martin will be one of several presenters at Impact Unlimited’s fifth annual Summer Symposium for brand marketing and convention managers. The symposium, entitled “Re: Think 08,” takes place on Thursday, August 21, at 9 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal Center. This invitation-only event will feature breakout sessions on green strategies for events managers, 2009 PhRMA rules, and networking sessions. Impact unlimited is a Dayton-based creative strategies company. Call 732-274-2000 or visit www.impactunlimited.com.
Martin’s assertions about the nature of the brain are not pop psychobabble. Rather, they are based on 40 years’ worth of cognitive research that he says business managers never knew was available. For decades, Martin says, psychologists have known that our frontal lobes operate with 12 “executive skills” — self-restraint, working memory, emotional control, focus, task initiation, planning and prioritizing, organization, time management, defining goals, flexibility, observation, and stress tolerance.
All of us are good at two or three of these skills. The rest, not so much. The trick is to find the ones each person is good at and exploit those skills. The obvious question is, if researchers have known this since the Johnson administration, why do bosses continue to brush our strong points aside in a vain attempt to fix our flaws? Because they are just finding out about it. The research, he says, had been used in therapy and treatment of brain disorders, from simple ADD to heavy injuries. Business executives, though, were never aware of the research.
His familiarity with the written word started early, while he was growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was the controller for the Harvard Coop bookstore. Martin still writes columns for newspapers and teaches marketing research and consumer buying behavior at the University of New Hampshire.
Martin began his career as a reporter and music writer for the Boston Globe after graduating from Northeastern with a bachelor’s in journalism in 1972. He wrote for various newspapers and magazines before founding some of his own. One was Interactive Age, the first magazine in the world to simultaneously publish online and in print.
Martin also was a vice president at IBM, and has published seven business bestsellers.