Jack, the CEO of one of my client companies, was complaining that people today don’t have the same values as he did. “Why, when I was a kid I had two paper routes. How many of today’s kids have the equivalent?”
I suggested that he was an exceptional person in his peer group. I asked him how many of his other childhood friends had two paper routes. “I don’t remember,” he said. Well, I asked, how many papers were there in your town when you were growing up? “Two,” he answered, one morning and one evening.” Well I suggested, since there were only two papers and he had the routes for both of them, there couldn’t have been anyone else who had two.
In every generation there are the 20% of people who are the top players. And 20% of those 20%, i.e. 4%, who are exceptional, platinum-level people like Jack. I believe that there is more to the story, however.
I believe that when it comes to employees, the best strategy is to only hire people who have the right attitude and aptitude. Even when that person doesn’t currently have the skills and experience, they will quickly gain them. Aptitude is relatively clear. If you don’t have the gray matter to grasp concepts and learn, no amount of effort will get you there. Attitude is another matter.
Attitude is largely shaped by the community you’ve been in. If your parents and peers told you that the secret to success is figuring out how to escape responsibility, avoid work, and do as little as possible — you will. When your enter the workforce, you will behave based on that attitude. If, on the other hand, your first manager set a different set of expectations and identified a different set of behaviors, you will likely align with those behaviors.
An employee will align with the “correct” behaviors, that is, if they truly want to succeed. Telling an employee to “man up” and be a good employee isn’t enough. Even having good role models growing up isn’t always enough. The manager has to provide some specific coaching as well as be a role model.
My son Adam and I wrote a pragmatic little book for the motivated, albeit clueless, employee on how to win the workplace race. Adam began his journey of self-discovery after a failed business startup. He had not fully developed the proper attitude to be a successful worker and manager, so he could not weed out those with the incorrect aptitude, nor could he provide the proper example of attitude for his employees to follow. He and I used those experiences and what he learned in the process to create a pragmatic book to motivate the willing employee on how to develop the right attitude to succeed in the “rat race.” “Winning the Rat/Workplace Race.” is available on Amazon.com. Take a look — the best strategic plan in the world will go nowhere without the right people to implement it.