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Recognizing Potential: Finding The Diamond In The Rough

Nov 21, 2017 3:03:48 PM

Okay, the economy this year is pretty good. If you are like many kitchen/bath design firm owners, you may be looking to hire another sales designer.

This time you want to do it right. Not just grab a glib industry veteran that claims he will give you a quick $1,000,000 in additional sales. The last time you made that decision, you spent over 7 months of your own time cleaning up all the projects he had messed up royally. Almost permanently ruined your carefully cultivated reputation for quality workmanship, superior customer service, and outstanding value.

And the last experienced CKD you hired was a good designer and a good person, but couldn't move people to sign on the dotted line. At least not enough to make any serious money for the company. So you made a tough, but wise decision and freed up that work station. She's working from her home now designing projects for a fee.

This time around you would really like a consistent performer that will help your company grow to the next level. Maybe even somebody who could head up a branch showroom in a growing market 30 minutes away. Or possibly be a candidate to buy your business in 10-15 years if you are indeed ready to retire.

So where, or how, do you find such an individual?

Why People Succeed

In his book Give and Take, Wharton business professor Adam Grant shares some extraordinary truths about how and why people succeed. He writes: "For many years, psychologists believed in any domain, success depended upon talent first and motivation second. Today, we have compelling evidence that interest precedes the development of talent. It turns out that motivation is the reason that people develop talent in the first place."

Grant recounts how young pianists became so much better than their peers because they practiced many more hours. As true "givers," their teachers were caring, supportive, and patient. They made piano lessons enjoyable which then served as a catalyst for the long of hours of practice to develop the pianists' talent.

You may recall that Tiger Woods became an exceptional golfing talent in early twenties not just because he started playing at a very young age. His superior talent was developed largely because his father was there for him all the time while Tiger practiced year after year for two decades, encouraging, coaching, and pushing him to be better.

Research has shown that a teacher's belief will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. When a teacher believes his student is a "bloomer," he sets high expectations for the pupil's success. As a result, the student feels motivated to work harder. And the teacher tends to engage in more supportive behaviors that boosts the student's confidence, speeding and refining his development. When a pupil makes some mistakes, a good teacher would see these as teachable moments rather than believe there was any lack of ability. 

What To Look For: Grit

Looking back over the years in this industry, it strikes me that so many kitchen/bath owners fit the classic "taker" description in Grant's book. In general, they expect new hires to be productive immediately without providing the necessary direction, organizational support, training, and encouragement. Sadly, owners are apparently just too busy to provide the kind of leadership and mentoring that could make a real difference in results both for the individual and the company.

But recently we have experienced many tough years in business during and immediately following the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Perhaps some owners may be willing now to do a makeover on themselves and become givers to achieve their desired corporate financial goals. By default, givers start by viewing virtually everyone as bloomers. Then they zero in on a person's grit.

Psychologist Amy Duckworth defines grit has having the "passion and perseverance toward achieving long-term goals." Yes, intelligence and aptitude are important. But a person's interest, focus, and drive have proven to achieve higher performance. More than anything else, these qualities determine whether someone will realize their full potential - or not.

That's why givers who are business owners will seek gritty people, giving them the greatest return on their investment. Givers set high expectations, push and stretch people, so the new team members end up doing more than they thought possible for themselves. Forcing people to work harder than they ever did before ultimately benefits them in the long run. You just have to make the learning process interesting and enjoyable.

Becky Wiedemann

Written by Becky Wiedemann