13 April 2009

Are You A Black Hole or a Secret Weapon?

Someone once said that the most important impression that you can make on someone is the first impression you make on them. While there is immense truth in that statement, it is only part of it. As you observe people and their behaviors, then your first impression is changed or affirmed. In either case, I find myself using that initial impression as the basis for how I decide to size up my co-workers.

Let me begin by defining co-workers. In this post, I expand the concept of a co-worker as someone with whom you interact everyday (I consider them to be peers) to include people whom you observe as well.

I find myself constantly sizing people up. Im always on the hunt for talented people. The call-center business (like many others) is pretty tight knit. Chances are that you know someone who knows someone and that will often lead to new possibilities or opportunities that would not have otherwise existed. I know that there are people (many of them my personal acquaintances) that are looking for new employees. By keeping a running tally (in your head or on your contact list) of people who you consider to be high-potential, then you could very well help those looking for talent find that talent.

Yes, I keep a tally. I know every person on my contact list(s). Whether theyre on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, Rolodex, etc I know who they are and have made a determination about what category in which I put them. This is my open-ended recruiting pool. Should another acquaintance or I need someone who has expertise in a particular area, I know who I would recommend for, recommend against, or give no opinion of.

Before I get into my categories, I must make this disclaimer: Yes, I will tell you which group you are in. However, it will be in a one-on-one conversation and I will give you specific reasons. Yet, you also need to keep in mind that they are one persons personal opinion. While I think you might be a secret weapon, someone else might think youre a black hole.

The categories are:

Ø Black Holes These individuals are those who through interaction or observation have no real skills. They are the ones who cause you to ask yourself, How did they ever get their job much less stay in it? If someone asked for my recommendation on these folks, then I would very quickly and firmly give a Never hire this person response. These individuals have either shown incredible lack of knowledge, skill or ability.

Ø Ho-Hums These individuals are just sorta ho-hum. They have the knowledge, skills and abilities, but they dont really take any initiative. They wait for someone to tell them what needs to be done. These are the individuals who require micro-management. My response to a request for recommendation would be, they CAN do the job, but you will have to prod them, stay on them, double and triple check their work. If you want to micro-manage someone, then this would be the ideal employee.

Ø Unshakeables These individuals are there every day, they do their job, they are competent and relevant, but they have no ambition to lead the pack. They are happy being the person who reports to the person who reports to the person. They are steady, calm, cool, work their 8 and turn it off. Every company needs these folks. They provide balance to the entrepreneurs, but have no desire to be the entrepreneur themselves.

Ø Go-Get-Ers These are the entrepreneurs. These are the folks who see the problem, may not know how to fix it, but dive in anyway. They make mistakes, but they see the mistakes, realize them, remap and roll on. They understand that the mistakes make the product or service better. They also understand the importance of the “Steady” individuals is to their own success.

Ø Secret Weapons These are the individuals whose name comes up time and time again in meetings that they are not even in. Their opinion is often sought and highly respected. They enter an organization or a new role and weave themselves throughout it. They see the biggest picture of how each element of the business impacts every other element. They are not afraid to speak up when necessary, nor are the afraid to sit quietly and allow the Go-Get-Ers and Developers do their thing. They are like special ops in the military. They get in before everyone else, get things ready, and then head out when the main force (the Unshakeables) heads in.

Ø Developers My favorite group. This group understands that the only thing that matters is that their people, peers, coworkers are developed to be as successful as they can be. Developers were usually once a Go-Get-Er or a Secret Weapon. They have moved to an understanding that they cannot expand their own horizon until they have someone ready to fill their current horizon.

The element not accounted for in each of these definitions is whether or not they are nice people. While I would generally be quick to recommend the Secret Weapons or Go-Get-Ers, if they are asses to their coworkers, I would hesitate. As someone once said, theres only one letter that separates the assets from the asses.

It is also important to remember that any one of these categories could appear at any level of the organization. There are Vice Presidents that are Black Holes and there are Front-Line employees who are Secret Weapons.

In which category would you put yourself? In which category would you put me? Your coworkers? Your husband or wife?

As I sit in meetings, at my desk, at the lunch table, at the coffee shop, I am constantly sizing people up. Im constantly asking myself this question: Would I hire this person? Even more importantly maybe is the question Would I recommend this person to a person or company that I respect?