The Unbearable Lightbulbiness of Beings

Liz Strauss has a brilliant post containing the only 3 questions that count in hiring someone:
  1. Can this person do the job? This question is about the job or project description — expertise, skill set, and industry experience — salary is included here.
  2. Will this person do the job? This question is about motivation, energy, and work ethic.
  3. How will this person fit with the team? This question is about interpersonal skills, stress management, and communication.

I will say that if you can answer these three questions about a candidate, they will succeed in the job. But my experience tells me that you need to answer one more: How willing is this person to change? Particularly in start-ups, people will be asked to change hats and titles and duties on a regular basis. In large organizations, the semi-annual reorganization is bound to force change on people.

I discussed this topic in my podcast Four Jokes to Live By, starting with this joke:
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one, but the lightbulb really has to want to change!"

How does that apply to hiring practices? Well, people have varying levels of "lightbulbiness" - resistance to change - in their world views. How many women have said to their bridesmaids "He's not much right now, but I can change him", only to realize later that they married a lightbulb?

One of the counterintuitive principles in the book "Good to Great" is "First Who, Then What", which says that you need to get the right people on the bus before deciding where the bus is going. Yet most hiring processes focus on fit to current position. Doing this rigorously will get you an entire busload of lightbulbs!

We all have varying levels of lightbulbiness within us. The important thing is that we don't set goals in conflict with those areas of high lightbulbiness (also know as our core identity and beliefs). That's a simple, yet oft-repeated recipe for failure! And as a hiring manager, you need to assess the lightbulbiness of your team members with respect to any new initiative you need them to help with.

Okay, I've flogged the daylights out of that metaphor. The material in the podcast is much more entertaining. Check it out if you've got 15 minutes to spare.

posted by Mike at 3:20 PM


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