One of those things they never tell you when you become responsible for a team is just how terribly difficult it is to not just find good people, but to know the good ones when you stumble across them. I think it's mostly just getting your own head straight as to what exactly you're looking for and why - not just in skill sets, but in the softer stuff that makes the team work or not work. Skills can be taught, attitudes are a much more difficult thing.
A couple weeks back, my cousin-in-law, the pops and I were having a backchannel discussion primarily around hiring, motivations, balance and the like. This comment from my Dad struck me as especially right on.
Back in the day, late 1960s it was, I was working for Quaker Oats, trying to hire an assistant brand manager. Quaker’s HR group gave us all a “white paper” on hiring which identified four key traits that correlated with superior performance. Can’t remember three of them (intelligence was no doubt on the list), but at the time I was struck by Number One success factor: “Primacy of work.” More than forty years ago, somebody had figured out that if a person really loves what he/she is doing, if it is wrapped into their self-image and self-esteem and idea of fulfillment, they’ll be self-motivated and very likely to outperform the wage slaves and those who have no higher goal than personal ambition. In later years, I have added Curiosity and a Sense of Humor to my list of “must-haves.”
The primacy of work. Simple, but brilliant I think. You push yourself, you operate and you work because you have no choice but to do so. It is who you are.
When asked for the meaning of life, journalist H.L. Mencken wrote,
I do not lay eggs, as a hen does, because I was born without any equipment for it. For the same reason I do not get myself elected to Congress, or play the violoncello, or teach metaphysics in a college, or work in a steel mill. What I do is simply what lies easiest to my hand. It happens that I was born with an intense and insatiable interest in ideas, and thus like to play with them. It happens also that I was born with rather more than the average facility for putting them into words. In consequence, I am a writer and editor, which is to say, a dealer in them and concoctor of them.
This is why purpose and vision matters. This is why when we create expectations for ourselves and our organizations we need to operate towards a greater ideal. Without living within the bigger idea, it's much more difficult to know what primacy of work means for us and instead we fall back on skill sets alone.
So adding to my list of curiosity, an openness with ideas and a proclivity for experimentation, I'll add the primacy of work, too. Heads up.
Curious to hear what you guys look for, as well.
photo via vamitos