When Professional Knowledge, Skill and Experience and even FIT isn’t enough.

When Professional Knowledge, Skill and Experience and even FIT isn’t enough.

A little while ago I learned a great lesson in Board selection from an executive chair of a listed mining company, while we were working on the placement of two new directors. He told me that his focus was on FIT: the assessment of whether another could find their place and make a contribution that worked for all.
My job was to get the funnel of good applicants narrowed so that efficient and effective selection of preferred candidates could take place. His job was to use all the background information and add impression, intuition and a bit of guesswork to make the final choice. This is the mysterious area where values, interpersonal connection, and the like are tested and validated as best they can be.

The reservoir of potential company directors and senior executives is large in total.
It doesn’t necessarily result in sustainably successful placements. Often, the expectations for a new recruit wear off too soon. Often, important factors in performance and relationships start to emerge that cause friction, dysfunction and tears. Sometimes even the internally placed applicant becomes problematic.

Why is it so?
Way back in the last century (1969) a little book called “The Peter Principle” revolutionised the nascent world of managerial science. One short story concerned recruitment. Peters postulated that if there was a huge pool of potential applicants, the ideal recruitment process would be to so expertly craft the requirements and the places where the advertising was done that only one prefect applicant applied, was interviewed and hired.
Today recruitment is a science involving competencies, background checks, targeted interviews and many other tools. All good, but have the results improved?
(In a test of the Peter Principle that won the 2010 igNobel Prize, three researchers found that the best way to improve efficiency in an organisation is to just select randomly between the identified best and worst candidates!)

From my long experience as an interviewer, employer and occasional applicant for professional jobs and board roles, I have to say that too little attention is still being paid to one vital area. For want of a better descriptor I am calling it character.

An applicant may submit a well crafted covering letter with their CV, perfectly suited to the requirements for the opportunity. They are short listed because of their stated relevant knowledge skills and experiences. They are interviewed, where these factors are elaborated, tested through skilful interview techniques. They are invited to a final interview where amongst other things, FIT is to be assessed and gauged.
All goes well initially but within several months relationships are stressed and results are sub optimal. Sometimes it’s a speed bump; too often it’s carnage. What is missing?
The assessment of character is often what makes the difference. Character includes the ability to lead one’s self before seeking to create opportunities in others to follow. It includes being a functional human being. It means having the capacity to move situations forward. It means being courageous enough to pay attention to tensions and seek at least to understand if not deal with them. It means showing deep, real care for others. More time an attention needs to be given to assessing character. It is the quality that makes the difference between joy and upset for all concerned.

If you are interested in progressing in this domain of life and would like to discuss how to refine your character, demonstrate it to others or find it in those you seek to work with, please feel free to contact me at ianrs@iansampson.com.au

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