If you have children under the age of twelve, chances are they’ve grown up with an IPod in one hand and a DS in the other. We lost power during a recent tropical depression. While we were thankfully unscathed, the thought of no electricity lost its allure within five minutes. Our girls had a home library at their disposal, and summer reading aside, they weren’t “in the mood” to curl up with a book. After a few games of Uno, and allowing them to give me a makeover, (forget it—I’m not posting the pic) it was dark enough for flashlights. What happened next left me speechless.

Addie, our ten-year-old, began making flashlight puppets on the wall. We’re not talking bunny ears or a duck with a two-fingered beak opening and closing for effect. There was a steady array of every creature imaginable—elephant, snail, dinosaur, various dog breeds, baby in a cradle, yawning crocodile, and more than I can remember. Her hand movements were fluid and the images distinct. It was clear that she was at ease and thoroughly enjoyed the spotlight. When asked where she learned this craft, she shrugged and said she just enjoyed trying to make different creatures on her bedroom wall at night. As a fifth grader with class presentations sure to be on the syllabus, I suggested she share her skill in a class project. A hidden talent was discovered, not to mention a Toastmaster in the making!

What are your unique gifts? What talents do you share with your staff? If you’re a team leader, are you aware of your employees’ unique skills that may move your mission forward? Setting time aside each week for individual status meetings with your direct reports keeps everyone focused. These opportunities often lead to the discovery of skills sets that may not have surfaced without weekly conversation. Status meetings should not be viewed as micromanagement, but as quality time for discussion. While the standing meetings can be scheduled in one-hour blocks, sometimes fifteen minute check ins will suffice. The point is to meet with your staff regularly so you are both up to speed with progress on goals and projects. Direct dialogue can also alleviate potential productivity or communication problems before they become an issue.

Do you have regular team meetings? If so, do they include a team building exercise that requires colleagues to think out of the box? Team Building exercises can easily be found on the Internet. A great resource with a plethora of fun and motivating examples is The Disney Way Fieldbook, by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. There are games and exercises that take as little as five minutes to a few days to complete.

When these habits become routine, creative thinking is fostered and dormant talents emerge. You don’t have to wait for the next hurricane or lose electricity at the office before you seek out hidden talents and put them to meaningful use. If the power does go out, grab a flashlight!