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The Non-Negotiables of Hiring for Cultural Fit: Tenacity/Resilience, Otherwise Known as Grit...

I'm working on a project at DAXKO I have a lot of interest in.  Here's the spin - if you are in an environment where you're proud of your culture, have you gone to the extreme of trying to define what makes your culture unique?  If you have defined it, do you aggressively interview all candidates (regardless of role/position) to ensure they fit the culture you are trying to build/maintain?

I'm a behavioral interviewer, and one of the reasons I love that format is you can get under the hood andMotivation figure out what makes someone tick, and if you're good at it, you can separate what's real from what's BS.  With that in mind, I'm building towards recommending that there are some non-negotiables in the DAXKO culture that we should ensure every new hire has.

One of those non-negotiatbles in the DAXKO culture might be what I call Tenacity/Resilience.  Here's how I would define it:

-Tenacity/Resilience  - Does the candidate have a demonstrated history of not stopping when barriers appear?  Do they work through the challenges and keep going, or are they victims?

Of course, every company says they value that, but as I take a look under the hood at my current company and listen to what's being said, people who are viewed as stars have this trait.  The trait is clearly defined when:

-Managers talk about the team members who report to them whom they consider stars;

-Managers talk about why they didn't like a candidate who seemed to be perfect on paper; and

-Anyone in the company talks about who they admire from a work perspective.

Another way to define the Tenacity/Resilience domain is the term GRIT, which was defined recently in a Boston Globe article:

"In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.

While stories of grit have long been associated with self-help manuals and life coaches - Samuel Smiles, the author of the influential Victorian text “Self-Help” preached the virtue of perseverance - these new scientific studies rely on new techniques for reliably measuring grit in individuals. As a result, they’re able to compare the relative importance of grit, intelligence, and innate talent when it comes to determining lifetime achievement. Although this field of study is only a few years old, it’s already made important progress toward identifying the mental traits that allow some people to accomplish their goals, while others struggle and quit. Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success."

Damn - that makes you want to hear more, doesn't it?

"The hope among scientists is that a better understanding of grit will allow educators to teach the skill in schools and lead to a generation of grittier children. Parents, of course, have a big role to play as well, since there’s evidence that even offhand comments - such as how a child is praised - can significantly influence the manner in which kids respond to challenges. And it’s not just educators and parents who are interested in grit: the United States Army has supported much of the research, as it searches for new methods of identifying who is best suited for the stress of the battlefield.

Interestingly, it also appears that praising children for their intelligence can make them less likely to persist in the face of challenges, a crucial element of grit. For much of the last decade, Dweck and her colleagues have tracked hundreds of fifth-graders in 12 different New York City schools. The children were randomly assigned to two groups, both of which took an age-appropriate version of the IQ test. After taking the test, one group was praised for their intelligence - “You must be smart at this,” the researcher said - while the other group was praised for their effort and told they “must have worked really hard.”

Dweck then gave the same fifth-graders another test. This test was designed to be extremely difficult - it was an intelligence test for eighth-graders - but Dweck wanted to see how they would respond to the challenge. The students who were initially praised for their effort worked hard at figuring out the puzzles. Kids praised for their smarts, on the other hand, quickly became discouraged.

The final round of intelligence tests was the same difficulty level as the initial test. The students who had been praised for their effort raised their score, on average, by 30 percent. This result was even more impressive when compared to the students who had been praised for their intelligence: their scores on the final test dropped by nearly 20 percent. A big part of success, Dweck says, stems from our beliefs about what leads to success.

And that, my friends, is why I'm interested in the need to protect your culture by defining the behavioral traits that are most important to your company, then walking away from smart people who don't display those traits.

Go read the whole Globe article and I'll keep you posted on the other behavioral traits I'm thinking could be used to define the DAXKO culture...

Comments

Red Seven

I'm usually extremely wary of conversations around "cultural fit." All too often (in my experience), people are deemed a "bad fit" within a particular "culture" when no one has bothered to define the culture or articulate what a "good fit" or "bad fit" looks like.

Most of the time, real performance issues that could have been corrected or at least discussed aren't, because those conversations require courage. Or, the other situation is that the culture needs to be changed so that talented people who come from a variety of different backgrounds CAN fit within the culture - but it's just easier to fall back on the "cultural fit" excuse and turn away talent that might challenge the status quo.

Here, you've done a really good job of actually defining a cultural tenet of an organization and what "fit" looks like, and doesn't. It's work that a lot of folks aren't doing - good job.

Kris Dunn

Red Seven -

I wasn't thinking this when writing the post, but you are right - lots of people talk about cultural fit, but it's a big "glittering generality" thing that no one usually defines. Oddly enough, I was drawn to be specific not due to that reality, but rather to the fact that we had a team member who was rejecting candidates and others didn't understand why.

When I dug on why, it was specific elements of cultural fit, thus the project -

thanks for checking in - KD

Ann Bares

Kris-

Great post and article link. I think you're on to something big here with the focus on grit. A characteristic too often overlooked and undervalued today, and yet I completely agree with Thomas Edison's appraisal of its proportional importance. And there is a relationship to deliberate practice here as well - it takes incredible grit to do the things that lead to excellence and lasting success in a field or discipline.

As the mom of a couple of young adults, I also think about this a lot with respect to parenting - how do you raise people with grit?

Nice work!

nelking

I've used Carol Dweck's study for the past several years to explain to 13 year olds what most important for their success in life. I can tell you they are pretty much conditioned to believe that the smartest of them are bound for success.

I've also used it to explain to candidates what I'm looking for. If you have your grade point on your resume, I'm going to really dig into finding out what you did and how you got it done. Stories of over coming adversity in the workplace are the most enlightening.

Paul Hebert

The Dweck study highlights a very important element of getting people to perform.

When the success is based on "you're smart" you are communicating that the outcome is driven by DNA.

When the success is based on "you worked hard" you are communicating that the person controlled the outcome.

People want to be in control of their environment and their lives. Often we take that control away in subtle ways.

Alice Saunders

In your experience, who is more likely to put their GPA on a resume - the ones who think they're smart, or the ones who may not believe they're "naturally" smart, but work very hard in school? Any observations on that?

nelking

Interesting question Alice. I haven't made a study of that, but my initial reaction is it's usually those who don't have much work experience include their GPA. That's not a bad thing, but I am still going to dig into what they did, what they accomplished beyond just the grade.

Those who after 5 years work experience are still pointing to their GPA still value the grade measurment.

Resumes never paint the whole picture of a person, just like grade don't paint the whole picture of a student.

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