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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

High Performance Companies Need High Performance People

by Shel Horowitz

If your company's going to stick out from the pack, you need a team of achievers. An employee who's simply average—or worse, mediocre—will hold you back.

Family Business Center sponsors Rick Giombetti and Paul Alves of Giombetti Associates outlined the reasons why you want the best people:

  1. Your firm makes more money.
  2. Productivity is much higher.
  3. You need fewer people.
  4. They set higher standards.
  5. Life is easier.
  6. Your customer is better served.

Then they examined the qualities that make an employee great.

According to their research, hiring the right people doesn't have to be hit-or-miss. There are specific things to look for, and those things are measurable and quantifiable. In Giombetti's words, you can actually measure “the predictability of whether an employee will be a good or bad hire.”

Yet, too often, they say, human resource offices get blinded by “the halo effect,” and hire people who are inappropriate or underachievers.

Successful hiring involves measuring a number of different personality attributes. In the Giombetti view, these include: “management, energy, dominance, decision making, social skills, stability, goodwill, expertise, compromise, mental maturity, delegation, reflectiveness, communication, authority, reward, discipline, competing, collaboration, avoidance, accommodation—all of which have very precise definitions as the firm uses them.

Obviously, the same scores in all these categories are not desirable; some of them are essentially opposites. For instance, you can't score high in both dominance and compromise. There are different places on the continuum where different characteristics fall into the ideal range. Too little of a quality--or, in some cases, too much--can reduce achievement levels. For instance, if the ideal for discipline ranges between 40 and 75%, if you hire a 95% scorer, you've inflicted a dictator on your other employees-but if you hire someone at the 20% level, that person will be a pushover.

But Giombetti and Alves' point is that if you hire someone who scores within the effective range in most of those categories, he or she will achieve—and motivate others to achieve.

It would be rare to find someone who excels in every personality trait. but if someone is outside the effective range on only one or two of the traits, that person will be an effective team-builder who has enough vision to create something truly extraordinary.

However, the success may not come instantly. Alves pointed out that Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he came up with a successful filament for a light bulb--and that Lincoln lost over a dozen elections before he ever won one. Thus, persistence is one of the key traits for high achievers. Also, high performance teams ought to both complement each other's strengths and work together compatibly.

the best of the best, according to Giombetti and Alves, “understand leadership, are intelligent, motivated, and team oriented, and can handle conflict.”

So why not make sure that you hire the best—and watch your company leave competitors in the dust.

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