How to understand and evaluate people to ensure the future of your organization. Episode #67

By Ron Price

These days, hiring and keeping talent is a never-ending conversation. With rapidly changing workplace standards and expectations from employees, finding the right people—and keeping the right people, in the right positions—is crucial to an organization’s continued success post-pandemic.

The key to ensure your future? The ability to understand and evaluate your team.

The problem is, many leaders think they excel at evaluating others. Some even say they have a sixth sense or gut feeling for people and will decide whether somebody fits in at their company within 30 seconds of meeting them. One study that says people form first impressions in the first seven seconds.

The research tends to disagree on the accuracy of these gut reactions. A Michigan State study on how successfully entrepreneurs identify talent and hire people who are superior performers found that leaders are accurate exactly 14% of the time. Whether you trust your gut feelings or not, the reality is you should explore beyond just those initial reactions.

The ability to understand and evaluate others is a skill that can be developed, and there are more tools than ever available today to guide you. If you learn how to use them, you’ll have a significant advantage above your competitors in the way that you build and organize your teams. Here are three ways to grow this core leadership competency:

Begin by slowing down. Recognize that your goal is to identify the unique traits, capabilities, and skills of an individual, and that takes time. One way to know you are going in the right direction is by refusing to group the people on your team. If leaders say, “Well, all engineers are this way, all accountants are that way, and all salespeople are this way,” they are simply demonstrating that they don’t know how to truly evaluate others beyond the surface. Seeing the individuality of a person is crucial, and most of what makes up a person is below the surface—it’s not what you see at first meeting. Develop this attitude to go deeper, then you can develop the tools and skills you need to understand and evaluate your team.

Once you have recognized their individuality, use that knowledge to organize your team around their specific strengths. The best results come from helping people develop those talents into sustainable performance—something that is contradictory to the way most people think to lead. Most leaders focus on helping people fix what they aren’t good at. Great leaders organize their people and lead in a way that they’re spending 70-80% of their interactions around leveraging their teams’ strengths and only 20% of their time focused on fixing people.

If you can build a whole team this way, you will find a magic of synergy when everyone is focused on doing what they do best, and you will out-perform your own expectations over time. You cannot take a shortcut in getting to know what a person’s unique capabilities are. If you take the shortcut, you’ll actually make the trip longer.

Lastly, take advantage of the tools in your kit. With emerging study in neuroscience and psychology, leaders can now understand more about people’s natural strengths and talents—and should take advantage. Dozens of online surveys can map out your teams’ motivators, talents, behavioral traits and more, as well as what a specific job is asking of an employee. They are highly predictive for 80-90% of your experience working with someone and can bring tremendous clarity in how to organize a team, who to add to a team, and how to promote someone into greater success versus out of success. For 45 to 60 minutes in an online assessment, the payoff is significant.

Very few people were created to do the job you put them in. Occasionally you might find someone who is a perfect fit, but much of the time you will find someone who is a good fit but not a perfect fit. A great leader is like a conductor in that way—constantly adjusting and tweaking as they learn more about a team. It doesn’t happen easily, and you cannot get there in the first seven seconds of an interview, relying only on intuition. Develop this skill of understanding and evaluating people in a very specific, articulate, and comprehensive manner, however, and you’ll surpass even your own expectations of success.

Listen to episode #67 here.

Header image by Alex Green of Pixels.