“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
Several years ago when I was working as an executive at a large national technology staffing provider, we undertook a project to find the silver bullet for evaluating and hiring the best sales and recruiter staff members. We had developed a culture of performance, and up and down the leadership ranks we were obsessed with hiring the best talent we could find.
In our business – like so many others – hiring the right talent made all the difference whether your company would outperform the competition. That meant you had to hire sales resource who could consistently find, qualify, propose, and close profitable business day in and day out. You also had to hire recruiters who understood the technical market, could source and qualify top talent, match them well to our clients’ needs and culture, and bridge the expectation gaps often created around compensation.
We had experimented with numerous approaches throughout the years, seeking talent from top sources, training our leaders on effective interviewing techniques, and even deploying a battery of personality and skills profile tests. All of this was designed to separate the wheat from the chaff and narrow down our candidate pool to the top prospects.
No surprise here – most companies employ a similar set of practices for their talent screening process. But it still wasn’t giving us what we needed. To be fair, we were hiring solid talent, but we felt there was still something more. The 80/20 rule still applied, and we were determined to tilt that rule in our favor.
So we pulled our HR team together and gave them a project – find the perfect profile for these roles. To do this, we identified our top sales and recruiting producers and put them through the same battery of personality and skills tests…DISC, Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, Caliper. Once completed, we laid out tests and scoured the results for that one similar trait all of them would have. The result? Surprisingly, there was no silver bullet, no singular trait that all of them carried. Some were high D’s, others high C’s. Some were INTJs, where others were ESFPs. To be fair, there were some similarities, some characteristics that would incline a certain personality type to behave more like a salesman or a recruiter than, say, an accountant. But we still didn’t have that silver bullet.
Time for a different approach. So we sent our experts out to do interviews with each of these top performers. We also asked that they follow our staff around for a few days and observe. The result was astounding. There was one trait they all shared that set them apart from the average performer:
THEY WOULDN’T LEAVE WORK FOR THE DAY WITHOUT SETTING THEMSELVES UP FOR SUCCESS THE FOLLOWING DAY.
For example, our top sales leaders would look at their priorities for the following day and make sure they were set up to achieve a successful outcome. If it was a client meeting, they would reconfirm the meeting time, place, and agenda (even if it had already been confirmed previously). They would map out their proximity for the day and incorporate as many nearby opportunities as possible to maximize the time. If they were a recruiter, they would ensure that all follow up messages had been sent or left before days end. They would reconfirm interview details with candidates, and first day instructions with new placements. In other words, they would ensure that their priorities were properly scheduled.
And it didn’t matter whether that process was highly organized in Outlook or a Franklin Covey organizer or done from chicken scratch on a yellow legal pad. The point was that they HAD A SYSTEM, and they followed it religiously.
I’ve long thought about that project and worked hard to find a way to “fish” this out in my interviews with prospective employees. And I’ve told this story more than once to members of my leadership team, mentees, and many a new recruit/hire. Why? Because its not a personality trait. It doesn’t have to be hard wired in your emotional preferences to pre-determine your success.
It can be learned. It can be developed. Whether you are an INFP or an ESTJ (like me), you can incorporate this approach to become successful.
Stephen Covey said it best – “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Are you set up for success tomorrow?