Life is a Foursquare

In my constant pursuit of simplicity, I have come to believe that pretty much anything we do in this life – from how we work to how we play – can be defined, explained, and managed through foursquare models. This is the one I keep front and center on a wall in my office. If we HR professionals could focus our efforts on creating the opportunity, hiring, engaging, and motivating our employees to spend the preponderance of their time in that upper-right hand corner, we’ve built lasting credibility, value, and relevance…for our organization, for its people…for our profession, and ourselves.

Easier said than done? Sure. But that’s why it makes sense. If it’s easy to say, than it should be easy to do…once you crack the code. Start by just very simply thinking about managing your talent in and out of these four boxes. As you do so, consider:

  • We have to spend time in all of the boxes. That’s a reality…accept it.
  • Minimize the time in the “Wasteland” and maximize the time in the “Sweet Spot” and you’ve done a lot.
  • There is a pragmatic need to keep people in that “Duty” box from time to time. We hire people because they are really good at something…even if in the grand scheme of things, they’d rather be doing something else. Those skills have value and they should not be allowed to atrophy, even if they don’t like using them.
  • Give your people (and yourselves) permission…encourage them, in fact…to spend some time in the “calling” box. That’s where growth happens. It captivates, and it keeps things fresh.
  • Don’t assume your employees know what they “like to do.” They may think they do, but they could be misled. Help them figure that out.
  • For most of us, what we “like to do” changes. For some of us, it changes often. This is not a one and done analysis…it must be continual (or at least regular).
  • Ask your employees to take each bullet point in their job descriptions and assign them to these boxes. Then give them the job descriptions of other employees in their vicinity and ask them to do the same thing. That exercise – if done effectively – will be quite revealing.

For me, this model has far-reaching tentacles in the world of talent management. I use it not only in my organization, but also as I take care of and feed my own career.  It’s easy to use and understand…and it speaks to most people I share it with. Who, after all, doesn’t like a terribly complex and dynamic aspect of their lives broken down into four squares?

Image Credit: Pete Ashton

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3 Responses to Life is a Foursquare
  1. Frank Zupan
    March 2, 2011 | 12:57 pm

    good stuff. reminds me of Gartner’s magic quadrants.

  2. Charlie
    March 2, 2011 | 9:09 pm

    Frank – also a foursquare I love…Gartner’s Magic Quadrants. Thanks for that!

  3. Michael Brisciana
    March 5, 2011 | 7:10 am

    Charlie – - –

    I love the foursquare model you’ve presented. I’ve seen a foursquare regarding urgency/importance, but never one regarding interest/skill the way you’ve presented it here. Simple, but very deep and compelling. (Any chance you would want to expand this into a short management or employee development book? I think it’d be a huge hit!). This is really a terrific model for both sides of the equation to work from — managers and employees, alike. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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