Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams said “Before I became a successful cartoonist, I failed at dozens of ventures, including a corporate career and a number of inventions.” He later learned that rather than focus on traditional goals, he found being excellent at something didn’t guarantee being successful. He rather focused on a system that when applied daily could achieve what he wanted with more lasting success
For him a goal of losing 10lbs was demotivating since progress was slow. However stocking the kitchen with easy to prepare healthy foods and scheduling exercise as he would his meals is a system. Rather than spend an enormous amount of time being excellent at one thing, he found more rewarding returns being average at the right combination of skills.
If you want talent to help your organization succeed you must do five things:
- Identify deliverables to meet the challenge.
- Define and rank priority of candidate behaviors to achieve the deliverables while allowing for some skills to be learned in the process – the right combination of skills.
- SELL the opportunity based on what can be learned for professional growth.
- Authenticate the priority behaviors in the candidate including their propensity to learn and apply new skills quickly.
- Coach, encourage, and reward meeting (or exceeding) the challenge.
If you need all of the behaviors on your list to meet your business challenge, for example a short time horizon or mandated deadline, then hire an expert – a contract consultant. An effective top talent otherwise employed and not actively looking is smart not to move for a job their already performing. Their ‘system’ is to bring their strengths to each career move while identifying new marketable skills to learn. In repeating this system throughout their career they fast track themselves while adding octane to each new team they join.
Other attributes of a top talent include problem solving skills, effective communication, teaming and collaboration, curiosity, basic intellect, emotional energy, and a predilection to leave things better than they found them. Note these characteristics do not contain a specific grocery list of technology or functional expertise.
Great organizations hire for behaviors and teach the skills. Successful leaders hire smart coachable motivated candidates and meld them into teams that create synergy much larger than the sum of the individuals. Top talents utilize their system; they want to learn, are motivated to be taught, and prove mastery with results.
How can one miss the remarkable culture and profitability created by an ousted CEO at the New England $3.2B grocery chain Market Basket? A month ago nearly the entire employee base revolted and walked off the job (without any Union organization) to support the reinstatement of such a leader.
Stop trying to attract candidates with a grocery list of ingredients when you don’t even communicate what you are cooking for. Rather, sell the opportunity to meet specific business challenges, the behaviors important to the tasks, and the skills that can be grown. With effective leadership you’ll attract your talent and create a culture that wants to leave things better than they found them – yes more profitable.