Team building is a prototypical topic that endlessly cycles through the discussions of Silicon Valley’s chattering classes. Just last month, LinkedIn’s news feed was dominated by articles focused on a single theme: “How I Hire.” In response, the network’s writers conveyed many poignant ideas for filtering through a resume and the interview noise to identify whether candidates have the key characteristics they seek.
The assumption in most of these conversations, however, is that such characteristics are innate or even primordial. It’s as though they’re convinced that if you dig hard enough, you’ll find the key talent that you seek (or see the alarm signals going off) just beneath the surface. The skills are there, just waiting to be uncovered. So what you need, the logic follows, are good tactics to avoid hiring based on false positives or passing on otherwise strong candidates based on false negatives.
But in the competition for talent, it is rare for all but a small fraction of managers to be picking among an abundance of highly-defined, immutable talent. They must instead work along the long tail of individuals who have strong kernels of both greatness and weakness.
Put in an optimistic light – the only lens through which good managers should peer – there is not an abundance of greatness, but there is a near endless supply of latent or potential greatness. If a company’s strategy is based on finding and hiring people who are great today, and if that company is not a Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Google, or a very few other firms with similarly strong talent magnetism, then that company has no strategy at all.
Managing for Values
At Prialto, we shun the hubris of thinking we can find a way to peer into the character of a person to see what is there and what’s missing. No personality is stagnant and primordial, anyway. A person is always changing and what becomes of a person is largely about the interplay between the unknowable innateness of that person and how those qualities interact with the culture and environment at large.
Instead, we believe that the culture and workforce should be built upon corporate values that are fanatically guarded by management. A year ago, Prialto’s leadership started honing our recruitment process by distilling those values. We looked at what had gotten us off the ground and what had delayed our growth. We found five key values that seemed common to everyone who had significantly contributed to our progress:
- Commitment – Jumping in with two feet. No hedging. Giving it one’s all. No toe dipping.
- Ownership – None of the work is beneath any of us and every part of the business is of concern to all of us. All the work is all of ours.
- Integrity – Trust in each other and trust from our members is everything so we need to ALWAYS do the right thing, even when difficult to do so.
- Learning – Continually up our game, innovate, and find intrinsic value in knowing about each other and the work lives of our members.
- Service – To each other and to our members.
To be sure, there are other key qualities that often come up. We work cross-border and among several cultures. So, for example, we also value something called “code switching,” the ability to speak at ease with many different sorts of people, from our most aggressive executive member to our most humble PA.
But the key values that we call our “COILS” are what we always come back to.
Values in Recruiting
And here is how that plays into our recruiting: We are not necessarily out there looking for people who today exude those values. If they do, they are probably already in a good place. Instead, we go looking for people who are ready to embrace our values and develop themselves around them.
When we do recruiting well, we don’t find ourselves turning down people so much as encouraging people to self-select out.
Those who sign on are sold on the opportunity of working with Prialto. So when it doesn’t work out, they are unlikely to quit without much equivocation. But when we’ve sat them down and gotten them to look honestly at the situation, it is like a breath of fresh oxygen for all parties. Generally, the employee will acknowledge that it was not the right fit to begin with and, again, self-select out.