This is Issue #8 of The Weekly TrueTalker. Hope you enjoy this issue. If you do, please encourage your friends to subscribe over there on the right!
What characteristic is most important for success?
Sounds like a trick question, right?
Gotta be intelligence.
At least that's what you'd think if you were one of those Martians we always imagine popping in on our world and giving us our annual performance review
We go on about "smart" in just about every setting. From nursery school to investment banking, we use "smart" as the yardstick.
And, why not? Even broadly defined, the ability to analyze verbal and quantitative information, and to quickly grasp and effectively articulate concepts pretty well discriminates the most from the least successful among us.
But all the intelligence in the world won't make you successful if you don't care.
No matter what business you're in, you have to CARE to succeed.
Caring sounds so elementary; so simplemindedly obvious that it's hard to see, and even easier to overlook when you do.
Think about this: who's your absolute favorite service provider?
Maybe it's the woman who cuts your hair, or the guy who mows your lawn. Maybe it's the girl at the Apple Store who helps you figure out new software. Maybe it's your grandson's kindergarten teacher or the woman at Barney's you buy sweaters from. Perhaps it's your cardiologist.
Whichever one it is, I bet the thing that makes them your favorite is the same thing: they really care about what they do.
Most times, we don't focus on the caring. Instead, we notice caring's results.
We all experience being "handled with care" deeply, but often will say things like: "oh, she's really patient with me when I don't understand a program"; or, "she always wants to be sure my hair looks just the way I want it"; or, "he trims the flower beds so neatly 'cause he knows how proud I am of them."
Superficial differences aside, each of these is a reflection of an individual approaching her/his work care-full-y; in a manner that is, literally, full of care.
Care yields magical results. It transforms the mundane into the extraordinary. creates powerful bonds. It is uniquely differentiated. It's brandable.
No one can duplicate the experience of having been handled carefully.
So, why do we focus so much on intelligence and so little on care?
My discipline has done a great job creating tools that measure intelligence. Short, reliable, valid instruments allow us to quickly assess quantitative and verbal abilities.
But, how do you measure caring?
See what I mean?
This leads us to behave like the guy who's crawling around on the ground beneath a lamppost on a dark night. A stranger wonders by and asks, "what are you doing?" "I'm looking for my house keys." The other guy joins in and after a minute says, "where did you see them last?" The first guy points to a driveway across the street and says, "over by my car." The second guy stops and says, "why are we looking for them over here?" First guy replies, "hell, the light's much better here!"
We look for intelligence because we have tools to help us assess it; the light's much better there. "Caring" feels too abstract, too hard to define, too touchy-feely.
But the fact is, you can evaluate caring. Remember this: we are passionate about the things we care about.
So, in an interview, be sure to ask about passions. "What's the most important thing in your life?"; or "What do you do that you enjoy the most?" "What's the thing you're most proud of?"
When the interview is over, ask yourself, what does she care about? Do I know what's most important to her? When she talks about it, do I experience her passion?
It doesn't matter if it's passion for flowers, physics or roasting chickens; genuine caring passion comes through. And, it doesn't need to be jump up and down, rah rah style passion, either; quiet, but powerful caring comes across, too.
And, remember this: caring is transferable energy. Passionately caring about cutting hair is much easier to develop when someone's already cared deeply about Buffy The Vampire Slayer!
Now, I've definitely engaged in a classic "straw man" argument here: of course intelligence is an important factor for success.
But in a world that demands extraordinary, "she really cares about the customer" is much more likely than "wow, she's so smart," to leave others feeling, well, cherished.
Imagine actually feeling cherished by a business: now, that would be extraordinary!