Want to Do vs. Want to Be

by: Doug Michaelides

At a panel session hosted by Stratford Managers last year, Michael Gaffney, CEO of In-Touch Insight Systems, spoke about recruiting talent in his company.

“When I’m hiring someone,” Michael said, “I’m looking for these traits:

  1. Are they introspective – a continuous learner?
  2. Do they innovate?
  3. Do they have ethics?
  4. Are they willing and able to do the job?
  5. Are they collegial?
  6. Are they a ‘want to do’ or a ‘want to be’?”

I particularly liked the last point.  I wish it were part of every hiring manager’s checklist.

Many times I‘ve sat across the table from an ambitious young manager demanding, “How can I become a Director (or VP) in a year?”  Sometimes there’s a genuine interest in understanding the competencies required for career advancement.  But more often than not, the questioner already believes they are ready for the job and are being held back by senior management ignorance (or some conspiracy to frustrate their inevitable rise to the top).

What is so disappointing about this question is that it reveals someone more interested in being important than doing something important.  Yet, as most senior managers can attest, people that actually do important things are the ones most in demand when it comes time to hand out bigger roles.  Nothing demonstrates competency better than accomplishment!

The question also shows naivety about how organizations work.  Even when an individual is qualified for a promotion, the organization may not have an opening or be in a financial position to create one.  Not to mention that there may be someone else even more qualified for that coveted position when it arises.

So, young managers, over the course of your career:  Ask not what your company can do for you – ask what you can do for your company.  Good things come to those who earn them.  But if, despite your great work and the respect of your colleagues, an opportunity for advancement doesn’t present itself, go search elsewhere with the satisfaction and confidence derived from your accomplishments.  That’s a whole lot better than a hollow title and the ignominy of having risen to your level of incompetence.

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