Friday, November 16, 2012

The Talent Triangle

If you lead people or plan to lead people in the future, one lesson holds true.  Who you select will absolutely make or break your career.  But therein lays the problem.  If you end up hiring the wrong people, and that's so bad, how can you avoid making that mistake? 

The truth is that if you hire enough people, mistakes are unavoidable.  People, like situations, change for reasons that are not immediately obvious.  That candidate who was so promising last year may completely flame out the next.  I'm not here in this blog to talk about how to manage talent once you have it inside the company.  Rather, I am going to lay out for you a specific method of selecting talent that will yield you consistently good results.

First of all, do not hire people who are just like you and/or whom you develop an affinity with through a one-hour chat or panel interview.  In order to know if someone will be successful in the role for which you're hiring, you have to mix science and subjectivity. 

Here is one caveat - make sure that if you follow my methodology outlined in this blog that the position is key.  It takes time and money to apply the "Talent Triangle" method to talent selection.  If you don't have either or are not willing to spend the time, by all means use your gut.

Each role you have requires a certain level of mental acumen from a candidate.  We are not talking about IQ or education.  The meaning of capability in the Talent Triangle is defined by an individual's ability to process information.  You must be very careful in trying to make this determination on your own.  Someone can sound very smart/proficient, but there is a whole set of hard, psychological science that has been developed over 40 years to measure capability.

There was a psychologist named Elliot Jacques ("Jacks") who began this work in the 1950s and perfected it over 40 years.  What he determined is that there are 10 "Levels of Work", eight of which are practical to the corporate environment.  To get more information on the definitions that make up Jacques' body of work, go to this site:

This site is part of the business founded by Dr. Glenn Mehltretter, who is one of the foremost experts in the world on assessing the capability of an individual according to Jacques' principles.  You'll find many interesting things on his site.  There is information that shows you what level of capability is usually associated with roles of all types.  If you select someone for a role that requires more capability than they possess, you will have a dysfunctional employee - they will not be able to execute the job functions.  If you select someone that has more capability than the role requires, that person will either quickly rise or quickly leave!  Being within one level, above or below, is generally ok.  You will likely be very surprised that most U.S. Presidents have been assessed through this method as being Level 3s.

As with capability, don't assume that you know what this means.  Some people equate values as being the perception of what's right and wrong either from a societal, religious, and conscious perspective.  When I refer to "Values", I am talking about how a person's development, environment, and life experiences have shaped their approach to work.

There is a company called "Values Technology" (, and they have pioneered a unique way to view, holistically, a person's system of values and how it will affect the way they approach work.  As you can see below with my own assessment, there are four phases divided into 20 steps.  If you're like me, you can pretty much ignore phases 1 & 4.  People in phase 1 have values that have been shaped around survival.  These values help a person survive - in other words, how does this type of individual need to act to ensure that they are fed, clothed, sheltered, and alive at the end of a day.  People found in phase 4 spend their time focused on ideas and concepts that do not typically drive profits.

The thing to key into is whether a person prefers to be a "cog in a wheel" or an "independent thinker".  Before you think that higher stages are better, you should put the values of phases 2 & 3 into context with your company.  If you work in a top-down, hierarchical company you will find that people in stage 2 will fit your culture.  Conversely, if you work in a company like Google where you expect your folks to be somewhat maverick, you'll want to find stage 3 individuals.  These are the people who will feel stifled in hierarchical structure but will thrive in a matrixed environment. 

A person's values are typically more transparent than any other aspect of the Talent Triangle.  However, just don't think that an hour's worth of study will make you an expert!

You can relax because no assessments are needed here.  This is the one attribute that you can learn about a person through the traditional interview structure.  If you ask the right questions, and there are a million books where you can get samples, you will learn why a person wants to join your organization and what makes them "tick". 

Just because it is a simpler process to probe and discover motivations don't treat that as any less important.  The person's motivations have to match up with your own view of the position.  Do they work for money? prestige? power? fun?  Do they like diversity in assignments or a set routine?  Does the person want to get promoted or just collect a paycheck?  All of these things are important to know and you'll need to find them out for yourself.

**Ego Development**
This topic is not simple to describe and thus I will cover it in a subsequent posting.  Suffice it to say that this assessment is controversial but can be very useful in determining whether or not a person is right for a role in your organization.  As a teaser, I'll let you know that I refer to the assessment of ego development as the "Kryptonite Test"...