20% x 100% = happiness

“There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” ~ Mark Twain

Pie graph showing the are basically two types of human beings

The are basically two types of human beings… From: https://imgur.com/gallery/OP4pjLQ

You know that type of person who says “There are basically only two types of people…”? This is usually followed by some incredibly broad generalisation, which is likely to offend about half the people in the room.

Well, pretty early on in my management career I decided there are basically two types of employees:

  • People who can parachute into almost any situation and who will figure out what to do and thrive and produce great work
  • Everyone else.

And, more specifically, I decided people in the first category share a specific set of attributes. I have spoken to many professional recruiters and HR specialists who agree it’s more important to choose attitude over technical which you’re hiring new staff. I believe the best staff share a combination of personality types or attitudes with technical skills or competencies.

Attitudes:

  • They are internally motivated to do everything to a high standard
  • They are interested in learning and continually pushing themselves to do better today than they did yesterday.

Skills:

  • They know how to find information and ask questions if they feel like they don’t know something
  • They like to know how they are going, so they constantly look for ways to objectively measure their own performance.

During the course of my working life, it’s been my great pleasure to work with a number of people with these basic characteristics, and I firmly believe these people can do almost anything they put their minds to.

The reason is simple – they intuitively apply the Deming cycle to everything they do. When they arrive in a new job, they quickly make a plan, they start doing what they planned, they check their own progress against some objective measures, and then they come up with ways to improve what they just did. No one has to tell them to do this. They just do it.

People like this are a joy to work with. They are self motivated. They say ‘yes’ a lot. They ask a lot of questions. They make a lot of suggestions. They come up with solutions to tricky problems. They don’t usually waste a lot of time trying to accrue praise or status for what they have done, because they have already objectively measured their own performance, so they already know they’re doing a good job. And they are intrinsically interested in what they do, and they derive internal satisfaction from learning new things and doing them well.

I once had the pleasure of working with such a staff member, who was expressing her concern because she didn’t feel like she’d been very productive that day. I laughed and told her “You don’t need to worry, on your worst day, you do more than most people do on their best day.”

In most organisations these achievers are the 20% percent of the staff who do 80% of the work. In some industries and organisations the percentages might be a bit different. What do you reckon the ratio is in your workplace?

So, how cool would it be to work in a place where 100% of the staff are in this category? What kind of workplace would that be?

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About Jonathan Smith

Turning strategy into reality
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