How to Hire a Winner: Assembling a Team of Great People

Hiring the right people is always a challenge for any of us. We’ve all hired people who looked good but who failed dramatically. We’ve similarly hired people who looked marginal and who then went on to become stars. This article gives you the secret to consistently hiring people who are star performers.

Bob, my mentor, ran a Tech Pubs department at a high-tech hardware company in the greater Seattle area for 15 years. After his first 5 years there, he noticed that some people didn’t work out and others did, and he started experimenting with his hiring practices to figure out what was the right thing to do. After another 5 years, he had isolated the element that made people work out. He started hiring based on this factor and, by the time he left, he had a powerhouse team.

What Bob described he was looking for was an attitude that he dubbed “being a winner.” Being a winner had two elements:

First, winners get the job done. All of us have blown deadlines at one time or another. There are always lots of reasons for not getting a project done on time, but the bottom line is that the job didn’t get done. Winners, on the other hand, get the job done. They make their deadlines.

Second, and equally important, winners inspire others around them to get the job done, too. This part matters. Screamers and bullies can get the job done by beating on everyone until they get the job done, but their ability to continually get people to do a job this way is limited. Having experienced this once or twice, people will avoid working with people who get the job done at everyone else’s expense. They’ll tell them “no” or quit and go elsewhere. Winners instill enthusiasm in their co-workers. (“Enthusiasm” is from the Greek entheos, “to have the God within one.”)They inspire the people around them to get things done. They are exothermic.

Bob says that during his 5 years of research (and his subsequent 5 years of validation for his theory), he found that being a winner counted for 60% of the ability necessary. Everything else–education, experience, training, certificates, writing ability, technical knowledge–were collectively worth the other 40%. Bob says that he found that he could teach people all the other things, but being a winner was not something he could teach. Hanging out with other winners would light the fire in people and move them forward, but it was best to start with winners.

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