• Daniel Bowman PhD

Choosing the Right People for Work & Life

I have worked with numerous CEOs and have been part of several leadership groups, such as Vistage and Truth at Work, where business leaders talk candidly about their stresses and rely on each other for support and insight. Regardless of the industry, the number one problem CEOs say they have is dealing with difficult employees. I learned that even though I have a Ph.D. in psychology, I can't change anyone but myself. It is far more important to hire or choose the right type of person than it is to try to develop the wrong type of person.

I created hiring protocols for two different companies that reduced turnover by identifying the right type of people. These hiring protocols were structured and focused on personality traits, references from past employers, and how potential employees said they would handle various difficult situations. Potential employees were also asked to describe their greatest strength and greatest weakness as well as a significant mistake they had made at work or in life and how they dealt with that mistake and what they learned from it.

People who can openly discuss mistakes and weaknesses and learn from them have humility, and humility is one of the most important things to look for in the people you choose. Humility is not beating yourself up and does not come from a place of low confidence, it is actually a sign of confidence. We all make mistakes and having the humility to admit to them and learn from them and change is what allows us to learn and grow.

People who lack humility are not comfortable enough with themselves to admit to mistakes and refuse to accept criticism or change the way they think. They are stagnant and are hard to deal with. Instead of looking at their own issues and making healthy changes, they want to focus on what's wrong with you. They are are often argumentative and critical. But humble people listen to others, learn from others, and learn from their flaws and improve and grow.

In addition to humility there are three additional important traits to look for when it comes to choosing the right people: optimism, industriousness, and loyalty.

One of the hiring protocols I created contained an optimism test you can take for free online: https://web.stanford.edu/class/msande271/onlinetools/LearnedOpt.html To keep people from cheating, this test was only given to candidates when they were finalists and were interviewing in person. This test was created by Martin Seligman and was used as the most important part of a hiring protocol he developed for Metropolitan Life to hire salespeople. This optimism test was so effective in hiring good workers that it allowed Met Life to become number one in its industry and an article about the power of the test was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Optimism is how a person thinks about and responds to setbacks. When optimists have setbacks they know that if they keep working harder, they will get through them, but pessimists are more prone to give up and quit in the face of setbacks. The good news is we can all learn to be more optimistic (see Seligman's classic book Learned Optimism), but some of your optimism is determined by how optimistic those are around you, and you want to surround yourself with optimistic people. Thinking patterns and moods are contagious! That's why it essential to choose the right kind of friends, coworkers and partners.

In addition to seeking out people with humility and optimism it is also important to choose people who are both industrious and loyal. Industriousness simply means a person works hard at whatever they do. John Wooden, who sportswriters recently voted as the greatest coach who ever lived, considered the trait of industriousness to be critical to success and it was one of the most important things he looked for when recruiting players for his team. One of my favorite quotes is also from another successful coach, John Harbaugh: "Perform with shocking effort!"

Although humility, optimism, and industriousness, are of great importance, if a person has these traits but is not loyal, that person will probably only be in your life or workplace temporarily and will likely cause more harm than good. How loyal a person will be to you is usually indicated by how loyal they are and have been to others.

Choose to hire and surround yourself with people who are humble, optimistic, industrious, and loyal, and they will make your life much better, and they will help grow these important qualities in you. I commit to bringing all four of these important qualities to you as your coach. If we both embrace these attributes, we are certain to succeed!