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- The new book "Nine Lies About Work" offers some unconventional hiring advice.
- According to authors Marcus Buckingham (Facebook’s HR consultant) and Ashley Goodall (senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco), you shouldn’t look for well-rounded candidates. Instead, find people who have one or two key strengths.
- When employees are encouraged to play to their strengths, they make the greatest contributions to their organization.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In their new book, "Nine Lies About Work," two leadership experts take on some of the most pernicious myths about what makes a great employee, manager, and overall company.
One such myth applies to anyone tasked with hiring for their organization: Well-rounded people make the best performers.
This is just bogus, according to the authors, Marcus Buckingham (Facebook’s HR consultant and head of research, people, and performance at the ADP Research Institute) and Ashley Goodall (senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco). "Spiky" people are the dark horses in your candidate pool.
Spiky is a metaphor for individuals who excel in a particular area. Imagine a perfectly smooth sphere, symbolizing a well-rounded employee, versus a more jagged object, symbolizing an employee who is a higher performer in only a few areas.
In the book, the authors cite Gallup Organization data (here’s an example) on employees in a range of industries. That research found top performers didn’t share all the same abilities, "but instead displayed unique combinations of different abilities, strongly."
Through capitalizing on their strengths, the authors argue, people make the greatest contribution to their organization and are most likely to enjoy their work.
Some high-profile companies have already changed their approach to management based on Gallup’s findings.
As Business Insider’s Richard Feloni reported, Buckingham worked with Facebook’s head of human resources, Lori Goler, to provide personalized coaching for every new manager that focused on highlighting the manager’s strengths. Facebook now brands itself as a "strengths-based organization," which means leaders seek to place employees in roles that play to their strengths, instead of trying to fix their weak points.
Still, other experts have taken issue with the concept of strengths-based coaching. In the Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who is a psychology professor at Columbia University and the chief talent scientist at Manpower, argues that this strategy "leads to resources being wasted on C and D players," among other potential negative consequences. Instead of focusing their training efforts on high-potential employees, Chamorro-Premuzic says, managers work to help bring out the best in employees at all levels.
As for Buckingham and Goodall, they embrace spikiness in an effort to be pragmatic. They write: "Excellence in the real world, in every profession, is idiosyncratic."
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