A few years ago, I was at the gym. I overheard one of my fellow gym goers complaining to the lady working at the front desk about an overflowing toilet in the men’s room. After listening to the gym goer voice his complaint, she delegated the responsibility of attending to the toilet to her male front desk coworker. He was noticeably less than thrilled about the notion of tackling a filthy, flooding toilet and ultimately shirked the responsibility. With a strong sense of conviction, the female front desk assistant assumed full control of the situation, marching confidently into the men’s room and resolving the situation.
While I’d long been impressed by the assistant’s unwavering prowess at attending to gym clients (I was especially struck by her adept use of eye contact), she demonstrated particular poise throughout this particular fiasco. She took quick and decisive control without any evidence of petulance. I thought, “That’s my girl!”. It wasn’t long before I decided to hire her as my personal assistant. Today, the former front desk assistant owns a three-city interior design company that she founded.
I’m a wholehearted believer in adopting an always be watching (“ABW”) mentality particularly now, with the great resignation/migration. Managers and executives never know where or when they will uncover lucrative talent. On the flip side, prospective employers, vendors, board members, and others never know where or when they might find talent they need: You! I always encourage my clients to leverage their everyday experiences to uncover new sources of talent, and to be aware that eye might be on them as potential talent. In many cases, the purposive searching process results in them identifying new talent to poach. In other cases, the intentional searching process causes them to realize the far-reaching negative implications associated with subpar talent and, in turn, heightens their motivation for ensuring they avoid talent gaps in their own teams.
1. Maximize opportunities for serendipity
Those who adopt an ABW mentality are always on the lookout for new sources of talent. Whether at the gym, at the grocery store, on a vacation, or at a networking event, the most effective executives keep their eyes peeled for opportunity. In the book “Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck”, Tony Tjan and his co-authors describe their research pertaining to individuals who they refer to as “luck dominant”. They discovered that 86% of "luck dominant" individuals attribute their success to “being open to new things and people.” Maximize your own opportunity for serendipity by embracing an open mind and by leveraging every experience as an opportunity to discover untapped lucrative talent. Also, be aware that others might be keeping an eye on you!
2. Seek out emotional intelligence
When on the hunt for new talent, it’s advantageous to be laser-focused on identifying high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ). Several bodies of research show that emotional intelligence is increasingly trumping IQ as the most powerful predictor of leadership success. If you believe you’ve encountered a new source of talent, assess his/her level of emotional intelligence. Is he empathetic? Does she embrace change? Is he able to handle his and others’ emotions? Such individuals are primed to be welcome additions to any workforce. Research by KRW International found that CEOs who received high ratings from their employees for their character (which encompasses integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, and compassion) boast an average return on assets over a two-year period that is nearly five times greater than their lower character-rated counterparts.
3. Look for passion
Passionate employees are your most valuable asset. You can’t teach passion. When sporting your ABW mentality, keep your eyes attuned for individuals who exude passion for their work. Does the butcher at your neighborhood supermarket exhibit a deep passion for interacting with people and an eager desire to learn more about patrons?
Passion among employees is few and far between. A study by Deloitte found that 88% of employees don’t exhibit a passion for their work, with the result that they fail to contribute at their full potential. Passionate employees are a boon to the workforce. According to research by Deloitte, 68% of passionate employees are optimistic about the future of their companies, 71% report working extra hours, and 89% report feeling focused, immersed, and energized in their work. Passionate employees are consistently more engaged and outperform their less passionate counterparts. As Steve Jobs once remarked, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Top-tier talent is hard to come by and often emerges in the most expected places. The most successful leaders have a knack for uncovering lucrative talent sources. The key to embracing an ABW mentality is to maximize your exposure to serendipity and adopt an open mind. As Lynn Good, chairman, president, and CEO of Duke Energy, once said, "If you keep an open mind, you can learn so much from the people around you." And remember, as you are watching out for talent, so are others watching you.
I care deeply about helping leaders and advancing the human resources profession. I have authored two books, The Art of Executive Coaching and Stress-less Leadership, and maintain a regular blog. I am also a leading contributor for The Society For Human Resources Management, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Association of Talent Development.
As an active animal advocate, I donate 100% of all book proceeds to animal welfare.
The opinions in this article are my own, and do not reflect those of my publishers or employers.