Given the amazing speed of change in most industries today, it is clear that having top talent is a necessity. Hence, the subject of spotting such individuals at a very early stage and acquiring that talent for your organization should be a very high priority task. So…what do you look for in a person’s background that would signal that you have uncovered a top prospect that is likely to consistently generate outstanding performance as they gain more responsibility? Based on my experience over the years, I would list the following:
1.) A Bias for Action – Strong leaders display a consistent bias for action. This trait of wanting to get on with things and make something happen emerges very early in one’s life, even back to high school, college and early work experiences, and is seldom a trait that is developed over time. Hence, by probing the past as you interview an individual, this is a key attribute to look for.
2.) Focus on the High Priority Items – The top performer knows that the key task is to knock off the one or two high priority items while handling the lower priority issues as best possible. They want to excel at what is important, not just be involved with a portfolio of activities.
3.) Meeting Deadlines and Commitments – You want people who consistently set aggressive deadlines and then consistently meet them. They view their work as a commitment to make things happen and put a high priority on wrapping things up in a timely manner.
4.) Managing Time Well – In my experience, weak managers work very long hours. They think this is a badge of heroism but it is probably the single biggest hallmark of incompetence. To work effectively, you must prioritize and pace yourself. The manager who boasts of late nights, early mornings, and no time off clearly is having difficulty managing time so it’s not surprising that often they also have difficulty actually getting things done.
5.) Top Players Hire Top Players – Strong contributors know that it is vitally important to get the best possible players on their team. Consequently, they put a lot of effort in to the selection of personnel and they set their standards very high. They know that it is more important to wait for the right candidate with excellent skills than it is simply to get the job opening filled.
Talent is everything. Getting the right people in the right place solves a lot of problems. All of us need to constantly put focus on this task of selecting personnel.