Unearthing the hidden assets in your people

ikgiai for hidden assets

Yesterday I wrote: “Do you know the hidden assets in your business?” with a focus on the people in your business.

Today I’ll share a simple tool that has many valuable applications, including unearthing the hidden assets in your people.


I have been drawn to the concept of Ikigai for some time.  As illustrated in the drawing above, one can simplify it to looking to do as much as you can of:

  • What you love
  • What you are good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can be paid for

Ikigai is much deeper than that, as you can see in this article: “Ikigai, Pleasure and Meaning” and in numerous other posts you can see tagged with the term Ikigai if you choose to search this site. However, this distillation into four circles in a Venn diagramme is a nice simplification for our purposes today.

Also to that theme, in yesterday’s post, I highlighted Dan Pink’s work around what motivates us, being:

  • Purpose
  • Mastery
  • Autonomy

So, today I said I’d give you a simple tool to apply in the context of unearthing hidden assets in people.

Well, Different, Missing

The “Well, Different, Missing” tool is one I most often use to debrief after a meeting. Often with a client or co-facilitator, sometimes even extended in vulnerability to asking those in the meeting the questions:

  • What went well?
  • What could have been different?
  • What was missing?

When one comes from a space of being open, humble and looking to grow and learn, this is a powerful tool to use for continuous improvement. It also has the great benefit, when used within and at the end of a meeting, to have those involved feel ever more heard and that their counsel is and will be sought to support learnings, growth, new ideas in that and other spheres.

Now, let’s also extend the use of this concept to unearthing hidden assets in your people.

Consider, then, that you are looking to unearth hidden assets and the ideas around asking “Well, Different, Missing” as well as the Ikigai of that individual.

What could you ask of them?

Setting the frame first

Before discussing how we could use “Well/Different/Missing” in this way. First, let us look at setting the frame. Let’s start by recognising how 1:1 meetings are often perceived at the outset.

Many of the questions and answers in such an environment, or even the meeting itself, come from a place of rectifying a problem or issue with the business and/or the individual. They are in a problem-solving space and often create fear and a closed feeling in the team member you are talking to.

You may think not, but what do the words “can you please step into my office?” evoke in many of us? Nerves, worry, “what is this about?”.

So, before looking to unearth assets, one must “create a frame”, a context, a space where the individual can feel relaxed and that you are there to listen, to support, to see what you can do to help them.

Perhaps you could start with an Ikigai graphic, say how you found it powerful and that you’d like to talk to them today about how you and the business can help them spend more time in the centre of that diagramme?

I find that a powerful way to set a frame, though you will have many others of your own.

For sure, though, set a frame that allows an open and expansive conversation. Only then can you look at asking the sorts of questions that can unearth hidden assets.

What would you love to do, or to do more of at work?

This is a great question to ask people once the environment is right for them to open up about that with you. It links to the “Well/Different/Missing” concept.

A couple more:

  • What don’t you get to do at work that you’d love to do?
  • What do you feel you’d like to do less of? If you did less of that, what would that leave space for you to do more of?

Now, those three questions are all around work and “Well/Different/Missing”.

To go deeper in mining for hidden assets, and if you have created a space of openness and trust, ask people about their personal lives in the same vein, such as:

  • What do you love spending time on most outside work?
  • Do you have any passion projects where you invest time and energy to make a difference?
  • What skill have you learned or deepened outside of work in the last year?

There could be many more, the idea is to be curious and open in your questions and see where it flows.

One tip is to be careful about being too expansive about this. For example, if you ask “if time and money were no objects, what would you spend your life doing”, as this may disconnect the person from what may seem like a stretch (but is achievable) to something more “pie in the sky” and dreamlike.

The idea here is that you are genuinely curious about what drives and motivates people and, potentially, how their Ikigai (what they love and are good at in particular) could lead to them having hidden assets that they could use within your business as well as outside.

Personal Examples

Two from me that will both help you understand my own Ikigai, my “reason for being”, as well as to perhaps take those examples to illustrate how you may help team members do more of what they love at work and so unearth their hidden assets to their and your benefit.

First, I am a FINA Swim Referee. FINA is the world governing body of swimming. I have loved officiating at swim meets for many years, to the level that I committed over a decade ago to the process of learning and progressing to that level of international refereeing. I love that learning and I love most of all that I can then share those learnings to others while also having the opportunity to lead in a space different from my work environment. One of my most widely read posts ever is: “Leadership Lessons from a Swim Referee” which shares in depth about this. What I love most about that post is that it was picked up by multiple countries and shared with their national officials.

Second, I am someone who loves to learn new skills and see where they take me. Approaching two years ago I decided to listen to and act upon the voices (friends, colleagues as well as in my head!) that told me I should write more. I then committed to sharing learnings (of my own and curated from others) by writing daily on this site. I have already learned in many ways from this practice and am excited to see what will emerge over time (with the next step being to add a section to this site curating some core models I’ve both learned and developed myself, all under the theme “Open Leadership”.

Now, using my own stories, can you get a sense of my Ikigai, my “reason for being”?

If I was on your team in a particular role, having learned these things about me, what might you talk to me about doing more of, of doing things differently and doing things?

Good luck in unearthing the hidden assets in your people.

Oh, and perhaps start with yourself?

For that, a recommendation getting a coach to do that with and for you. We cannot truly see ourselves, far easier and quicker to have a specialist in listening and reflecting to do that for and with us.

Also published on Medium.