Most company hiring processes bring in new people based on their experience. Likewise, most hiring managers look first and foremost at experience when making hiring decisions. When you hire for experience how long does it take to develop an employee’s attitude? What if you hired people based on their attitude? How long would it take to develop their experience?
Rather than work experience, which in many cases is merely one or two experiences repeated over and over for years, I suggest that one’s record of work habits are more telling about future performance. Identify what a person does out of habit and I believe you will have the pulse of their future performance as well as the “ease” of their development potential.
Of course, habits come in three basic forms:
- things you should stop doing
- things you should keep doing
- things you should start doing
The same is true for attitudes, which, after all, are really habits of thought:
- things you should stop thinking
- things you should keep thinking
- things you should start thinking
The Big Difference Between Success & Failure
Earlier in my career I was a career coach and outplacement consultant. During that time I worked with many people with disabilities and people who were facing other significant barriers to employment. I learned a critically important lesson about people and personal success from my clients.
For example, many of my clients had severe disabilities (physical, emotional, cognitive). As a result they faced significant physical barriers in their communities, especially barriers to employment. They faced significant “attitudinal barriers” in their communities – discrimination. I learned there was a key difference between those who were successful in achieving their goals within a reasonably short time and those that took much, much longer or perhaps never found what I refer to as “right livelihood”.
The difference between success and failure was not the disability; it was not the physical barriers or the degree of discrimination people faced in their job searches. The difference between those who achieved their goals within a short time compared to a long time, if ever, centered on two key variables:
- Attitude about their circumstance. Their attitude about their disabilities, about barriers in general and specifically how they were being discriminated (and they were being discriminated – we all are in a job search!) was a key difference between success and failure.
- Daily habits. An amazing fact for me at the time was that, sometimes, those who succeeded and those who failed did the same activities. The difference was their attitude, for one, and the time in which they did those activities. The most successful people had the same level of activity over a six-day stretch as others did over a six-month period! Time is measured in hours and energy and successful people had a habit of putting a lot of energy into a few hours work!
How can I know?
How can you discover and hire people based on their attitudes and habits? First, use validated assessments including but not limited to behavioral assessments. Assess how people think and what they value as well. Contact me directly for recommendations or assistance.
Incorporate your new focus on attitudes and habits into recruitment, selection, orientation and training processes. What kind of people, industries, companies, occupations might attract the kind of attitudes and habits we want to hire?
You may already ask behavioral questions in your selection process. Begin to explore the attitudes more behind those behaviors. When you took those actions, what were you thinking? What do you suppose other people were thinking? You probably ask questions that require candidates to speculate about what they think about what might happen in the future if you hire them. Why not ask questions that encourage and allow them to speculate about what they think has happened based on their reported experience? Based on your experience, what assumptions would you change? What would you keep thinking? What would you start thinking?
Ask questions that uncover a person’s daily habits. What does a typical day look like for you? Listen for activity, the actions they take, and the results they produce daily. What does an atypical day look like? What actions did you take? Ask them directly about their habits and require examples. Based on your experience, what would you stop doing? What would you keep doing? What would you start doing?
Knowledge is NOT Power
People most often get hired because of their skills and knowledge. That’s typically where all the training money goes, too. People typically get fired because of their attitudes and habits, which is also why star performers succeed and excel. Knowledge is not power. Applied knowledge is power and attitudes, habits and goals determine the degree of application more than any other factors. Put a high performance race car with a lousy driver against a world-class driver in a lesser car and I will pick the world-class driver ever time to win. How about you?