Hire For Strengths, Not Lack Of Weaknesses

I really like to quote from Ben Horowitz “Hire for strength, not lack of weakness”. I have seen it many times in my professional life as a manager that people who were seen as unobjectionable by the hiring team didn’t do as well on the job as people who polarized the team but who had some real strength that was needed by the organization.

He was “just fine”…

If you have a stable business and want to keep status quo and not rock the boat, I can imagine to hire someone who is just fine and doesn’t have any significant weaknesses can be a good move. However, what if he doesn’t have also any discernable strengths?

Would you hire such a guy when you expect a hyper growth? When you need to make significant changes or flexibly react to the business needs? For these situations the unobjectionable guy may not be the one you are looking for. I see it quite often when the hiring team comes back from the interview and says something like “yeah, this guy is sort of ok,” or my favorite “he is normal, I don’t have any objections to hire him.”

Anyone to stand up for this guy?

What is wrong with that picture? There is no enthusiasm on the team to get the guy on board. For positions that need to hire someone with specific strength like “great communication skills,” or “someone proactive who will drive the project,” or “someone flexible who won’t buckle under stress,” you need to ask the team a very simple question, “Is there someone who is excited by this guy and will stand up for him?” If there is no response, no enthusiasm, then he probably isn’t the person who will help you to get the organization to the next level.

What are the must haves?

So what is the alternative? Don’t try to hire people who are good (or equally bad) at everything. Identify couple of key characteristics and behavioral patterns you need from that particular role and things that are nice to have but at the end the person doesn’t really need to excel at them.

Then after the interview judge the candidate against these criteria. And not just that ask the hiring team to talk about the biggest strengths the person has. Why is he a great new asset to the team? What does he bring that will help the organization to get to new heights?

What can you live with?

What to do with potential weaknesses this person might have? Again, make sure you identify these and discuss with team whether these are the things you can live with and/or whether these can be quickly improved by training, coaching and mentoring. Especially on the technical side there are few things that cannot be improved over time by providing good training. You should be more careful on the behavioral side as when someone is a jerk he will stay a jerk regarding what you do and significant issues in person’s character can turn into a problem that will derail the efforts of the whole team.

Next time you talk to a candidate don’t forget to identify his key strengths and values he would bring to the organization. If you cannot find any and find yourself talking to a mediocre robot you may want to continue your search.

How do you hire? Do you focus on getting someone who seems to be a perfect in all the aspects or are you willing to overlook some of the weaknesses and hire someone just for one strength that you need?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

Leadership And Importance Of Curiosity Quotient

I’ve always been a very curious person. I’m interested in everything, I like to know how things work, I like to know what’s going on in the environment around me, I like to travel and see new places and meeting new people and I like trying new activities. And I like reading. Most recently I read couple of articles by Thomas L. Friedman about the importance of curiosity in today’s world. This made me think about my own experiences as a manager and a leader. So how does curiosity influences your ability to lead people?

Friedman introduces two new concepts PQ (Passion Quotient) and CQ (Curiosity Quotient). He proposes that these should stand side by side with IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient) and they are in many ways superior to the good old IQ. This aligns quite well with my observations that I described in Effort And Attitude Beats Talent And Knowledge.

Curiosity as a way of life

Some of us are fine with getting just a general idea how things work, some of us don’t care at all about life around us, and some of us have this intrinsic curiosity about everything. You may be content with never learning to drive and always ask someone else to drive you, you may be curious enough to learn to drive but the working of combustion engine is still a mystery to you, and you might be someone who really wants to be a great driver so you study every single detail about the engine, the transmission, the breaks and inner workings of a modern car.

Curiosity as a distraction

If you belong to the curious bunch, there is one danger though. In today’s hyper connected world there are tons of information at your fingertips and if you are curious about everything you may get overwhelmed and be constantly distracted. So in my mind having a high curiosity quotient also means having an ability to focus your curiosity on the things that matter. It is incredibly interesting to know how long an average bee lives but unless you are a beekeeper the information is rather irrelevant.

The line between being curious to learn and improve and being curious just for the sake of accumulating unnecessary background noise can be sometimes rather thin. It takes some self-discipline to filter out the things that are way too irrelevant and will just cause loss of concentration and derail your train to success.

Curiosity as a way to mastery

There is very little you can do to increase your IQ, but there certainly are ways how to increase your EQ and CQ. You can learn to empathize with others and you can learn to be curious about things around you. As any mental exercise it will take some time and will need a change in the way you see world around you but it can be done.

To be really good at something you don’t necessarily need big IQ (even though it usually gives you an advantage), but you need to spend significant amount of time and effort to build the necessary skill and that means passion and that also means curiosity to understand every detail and inner workings of the world.

Curiosity as a leadership trait

For a leader to be really good at leading others you need to know more than that people have two eyes, two ears and one mouth. You need to be the student of human nature and student of language. You need to observe their behavior, you need to aspire to understand the behavior and how to influence it and use it to the better of everyone. The curiosity about how and why people behave, combined with the passion for learning and helping them to grow, are the things that will make you really great at working with others.

Your own curiosity will help you to be better at what you do. But your ability to spark an interest and make your team more curious will increase their chances of success in life. And as they learn, grow and spread the curiosity around it will create an exciting environment to work in, environment that will positively reflect on the success of your team and your company.

Are you a curious person? Do you believe that this trait helps you in today’s society or it just distracts you and holds you back?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.