It’s been increasingly obvious to me over the last few years that a lot of businesses fail to prosper because they get one major thing wrong: they hire the wrong people. That’s not to say they hire stupid or dishonest people (although of course some do) but that they hire for the wrong reasons.
There are lots of different types of people in the world. Some of them have talents in one area, some of them talents in another. Some of them have qualifications that say they can do something really well, some of them have years of experience proving that can do something really well. Some of them love to learn, and other prefer to be taught.
That last point is the key to hiring people. You see, the people that prefer to get taught won’t go out looking for answers, they’ll expect the answers to come to them. They may well have read the manual but they won’t be able to apply it’s principles in creative ways. They are, to put it bluntly, drones. These are the people you should avoid.
In technology we’re constantly trying to find new things; whether that’s new ways to do old things, or ways to do completely new things. While there are manuals and textbooks that will teach you how to use a particular tool it won’t show you how to make the thing you’re working on. You may know how to handle a chisel, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to make a Chippendale. That takes craftsmanship – a subject close to my heart.
You should look for the people that have a craftsman’s attitude to work. They love what they do, they are passionate about doing it right. They are the ones that love to learn, who will keep trying to push the limits of their own, and sometimes the technology’s, limits. Where they see something that isn’t as good as it should be, they say something. In short, they have an attitude of excellence and humility.
Excellence: because without it you can’t call yourself a craftsman. If you don’t aim to be excellent in what you do you’re a person that can’t be bothered. A “good enough” outlook isn’t the craftsmans way. Excellence is a mountain that grows as you climb, but every step brings a better view.
Humility: because arrogance is the nemesis of a good worker. Keeping an attitude of humility makes sure your ears are always open to new and wiser instruction. Arrogance is like a plushly decorated prison. You might think you’re living in luxury, but in reality you’ve lost your freedom.
As Seth Godin says:
I really believe that hiring for talent is not nearly as important as hiring for attitude. If you get the right attitude, you can teach the talent.
So talent, especially qualification-heavy arrogant talent, will not make your business stronger. Humility and excellence will.