How can businesses develop a culture of value creation, where customers and shareholders alike win? It starts with the people you bring in. Billionaire Warren Buffett said it best: 

Having first-rate people on the team is more important than designing hierarchies and clarifying who reports to whom.

While organizational structure and workforce management are important, plain and simple, it's putting the right people on the bus--the people who fit with your values and expectations of behaving and belonging--that will make the biggest difference for a company's success. 

That sounds like a no-brainer, but how often do we misjudge a hire on the wrong selection criteria, later to have that person quit because he or she was a "bad apple"?

Whatever your set of values and behavioral competencies (the soft stuff) for assuring success on the job for each respective position (in addition, of course, to technical and hard skills), you have to know what to target, with good hiring metrics in place during the interview process.

The reason I've chosen these four is that they consistently come up as desired behaviors in high-performing teams.   

1. Integrity

Buffett won't hire anyone without it and doesn't mince any words when he said, "You're looking for three things, generally, in a person: intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don't have the last one, don't even bother with the first two. Everyone has the intelligence and energy--you wouldn't be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren't born with it, you can't learn it in school."

When it comes to finding "first-rate people," hiring managers must dig hard to get the answers they need to feel confident that the best job candidates have the integrity to perform with the utmost excellence. Otherwise, one bad apple can be costly to a business.

2. Curiosity.

Top employers are attracted to the trait of curiosity in employees because it often leads to innovation and creativity, which leads to finding new information and discoveries. The impulse to explore novel ideas and seek out new possibilities is a basic human attribute.

In the September issue of Harvard Business Review,  Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, points to new research spotlighting the benefits of curiosity:

  • Fewer decision-making errors. Curiosity makes us less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than evidence suggesting we are wrong) and to stereotyping people.
  • More innovation and positive changes. The most curious employees seek the most information from co-workers, and the information helps them in their jobs and boosts their creativity in addressing customers' concerns.
  • Reduced group conflict. Curiosity encourages members of a group to put themselves in one another's shoes and take an interest in one another's ideas rather than focus only on their own perspective. That causes them to work together more effectively and smoothly: Conflicts are less heated, and groups achieve better results.
  • More open communication. In one study, groups that participated in a task that heightened their curiosity performed better than control groups because they shared information more openly and listened more carefully.

3. Emotional Intelligence.

We've seen over the years that people exhibiting high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) are drastically more self-aware, work better with others, and are promoted at a much faster pace.

According to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, "EQ is so critical to success that it accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs."

It's rare to find a bad apple in "first-rate people" exhibiting high emotional intelligence; they are keen on collaboration, empathy, and self-motivation. As people's roles and responsibilities increase, as they get promoted, move into leadership roles, and navigate political landscapes, IQ takes a backseat to EQ.

Published on: May 22, 2019
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