Fishing for the Will-o’-the-wisp Recruit

Let’s take a look around our workplace and really understand our key wealth creation prospect ~ our team. Let’s face it, it is very rare that we are able to recruit “polished jewels”… rather we are forced to look for the mud-encrusted ones which are available in the marketplace. Which of us would not like to begin with a team filled with Jewels? But is this really viable? The truth is that a perfect recruit is as elusive as the will-o’-the-wisp (a person or thing that is difficult or impossible to reach or catch) and as utopian a concept as can be.

Oft times, logic advises us to select for experience, intelligence, or determination. Talent, if mentioned at all, is an afterthought.

Conventional wisdom says that either Experience, Brainpower or Willpower makes the difference.

Some managers place a special emphasis on experience, paying close attention to a candidate’s work history and brands worked for. They see his past as a window to his future.

Other managers put their faith in raw intelligence. They say that as long as you are smart, most roles can be ‘figured out’.

Yet other managers believe in the ‘Success is 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration’ school of thought. Managers from this school believe that the technical part of most roles can be taught, whereas the desire to achieve, to persist in the face of obstacles, cannot. When selecting people, they look for past evidence of grit.

No doubt experience can teach valuable lessons; intelligence is a boon; and willpower – which great managers actually label a talent – is almost impossible to teach. However we fail to take into account that there are so many other kinds of talents and that the right talent, more than experience, more than brainpower, and more than willpower alone, are the pre-requisites for excellence in all roles – talents such as a restaurant steward’s ability to form opinions, empathy in order-takers, assertiveness in salespeople, or, in managers, the ability to individualize. Conventional wisdom assumes either that these behaviours can be trained after the person has been hired or that these characteristics are relatively unimportant to performance on the job. Both assumptions are erroneous. You cannot teach talent. You cannot teach someone to form strong opinions, to feel the emotions of others, to revel in confrontation, or to pick up on the subtle differences in how best to manage each person. You have to select for talents like these. Talents like these prove to be the driving force behind an individual’s job performance. It’s not that experience, brainpower, and willpower are unimportant. It’s just that an employee’s full complement of talents – what drives him/her, how he/she thinks, how he/she builds relationships – is more important.

The next time you recruit, try looking for talent in an individual and then offer him/her a enhancing & nurturing environment. Then sit back and enjoy the show…

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