The previous article ‘Traits of High Performers’ outlined the potential contributions of high performers to elevate an organization’s strategies, and consequent operational productivity and status as an “employer of choice.” The clearly delineated traits were properly identified as remaining unforeseen and/or an individual possessing those traits were unobtainable, yet I outlined a pragmatic strategy to entice and retain members of this exclusive group. While the promise of previously deemed impossible goal attainment seems elusive with a mesmerizing enticement for completion, we must exert caution when engaging with, and ultimately hiring, member(s) of the vaunted high performer group.
I did note in the previous article ‘Traits of High Performers’ that a cognitive bias, the halo effect, was present during interpersonal interactions. This reality was evident as an exceedingly superlative attribute of the individual such as a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) developed a holistic overview of the individual as beneficial to the group, manager, and organization while muddying an overall objective view covering all dimensions of the human mind and persona. A related recurring trend I’ve observed is that high IQ individuals pompously, arrogantly, and smugly defend their positions through unvetted “opinions”, and voraciously refuse to accept dissident viewpoints substantiated through copious evidence known as “facts”.
Despite a litany of potential shortcomings, the high performer group retains the same human framework of adaptability that is integral in a rapidly changing corporate landscape. If the high performer group’s core traits like humility, an open-minded approach, and creativity are deemed beneficial in furthering the organization’s progress toward its goals, then other undesirable traits like arrogance and a smug demeanor can be adapted through training and interpersonal interaction given that the latter traits are either secondary and/or tertiary in expression. Awareness of the interplay between character traits allows us to accurately measure risk, so we may enter into the most well-informed decision possible by accounting for all or nearly all available data points.
We may not be able to completely derisk the hiring transaction, but the opportunity cost of losing the highly valued productivity of a high performer may outweigh the lost or diminished productivity due to personality conflicts. One study did exhibit a detriment of hiring a group of high performers, and placing them in a supposedly copacetic team structure to coalesce around attainment of a common shared goal. The opposite result of unhinged incongruity was observed as members pedantically discussed the semantical intricacies of possible strategies and their alternatives including execution risks, unintended consequences, and counterparty risks while not arriving at an actionable conclusion to derive desired results. Therefore, we must not only account for individual traits in the high performer group, but assessment and selection processes must place gravity on organizational dynamics representative of either a collection of individuals from the high performer group or a congruous group assimilation of a high performing individual displaying novel, contrarian thought processes.
The foibles of project management are countless when involving both provoked and unsolicited input, which is subject to constant change, of numerous internal and external stakeholders. The human element can galvanize progress through seamless clearly defined task completion toward a shared common goal, or usher in unheralded uncertainty and/or ambiguity through shifting priorities, deadlines, and allocation of tasks or resources:
The complexity of project management with almost incomprehensible scope, like in the case of “MechaGodzilla”, appears unwieldy, overwhelming, and without an all-encompassing solution for completion. An individual from the high performer group tends to revel in and welcome seemingly impossible scenarios, as adept and all-inclusive strategies may be employed with a pragmatic action plan per Occam’s razor. The pedantic discussion of project semantics may either cease, or become non-existent, when a high performer is left to their own devices with occasionally sporadic collaborative discussions to refine ideas into their simplest form for ease of execution in alignment with Occam’s razor, and corroboration of likely results from applied theories. This project management scenario is not only feasible, but may flourish by accounting for all alternatives, facets, and resources involved in the project while developing a concise, straightforward action plan that clearly defines tasks and responsibilities with only relevant, potent measurement metrics to assess progress to specification.
Another benefit of including high performing individuals is their aptitude to connect seemingly disparate ideas to develop change initiatives aimed at corporate infrastructure improvement. Some studies state that only 20% of the workforce is accountable for 80% of an organization’s production, yet this figure aligns with multiple other studies referring to the commonly used business principle of 80/20. If the above figure were credible and valid, then corporations that proactively decide to hire high-performing individuals may reap the discussed benefits of unsurpassed progress while avoiding distinct shortcomings and detriments of this exclusive group of people if the individual is placed into a formative setting.
The proper setting to eviscerate a high performer’s penchant toward analytical discussion is an environment affording autonomy to creatively explore plausible alternatives and solutions to discern organizational inefficiencies and iniquities, rather than being placed in a narrow confining box with restrictive, strict adherence to standardized processes and procedures. Furthermore, the inclusion of individuals exhibiting average or above average intellect and behavioral tendencies toward collaboration should promote increased inclusion of divergent ideas to foster unity and harmony within the work group. Steve Jobs aptly described the value proposition and optimal environment for high performers:
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Typically, a high performer will readily become familiar with a job description, yet the scope of their abilities and interests will form the outline for a position’s contributions. Jobs was apropos in his assessment of the work style of high IQ individuals for achieving maximal performance including process improvements, other various change initiatives, and optimizing productivity. A corporate approach of placing the onus of defining the scope and scale of one’s role is traditionally reserved for the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy, direct managers, or external job group evaluation consultants. This traditional viewpoint and approach assumes that the corresponding organization will discover, attract, and hire a fitting candidate, and the selected candidate will be stimulated by the role’s rote tasks and responsibilities with no guarantee of growth in the role’s makeup and/or accession to an increased responsibility role. High performers require a counterintuitive approach, which affords high performers the latitude for creative experimentation that both serves to create innovative connections and discover infeasible projects to avoid potential costly mistakes or failures. We may enjoy the seemingly endless possibilities for an unequivocal competitive advantage by hiring a high-performing individual if we shrewdly account for potential shortcomings and detriments; however, we must first seek to understand the entirety of an individual’s being to arrive at a fruitful hiring decision within a group’s unique personal dynamics.