Have you ever thought you were passed over for a promotion because you were female, black, white, gay, lesbian, Latin, Asian, lazy, cosplay participant or other class that could be discriminated against subject to their environment? I’m a realist and believe that discrimination can happen. I have personally experienced it. However, some individuals can make assumptions with little or no information to support claims. Why, you ask? Because it makes people feel better when they’re sad or just red hot mad. These premature assumptions often cause people to quit their jobs, drop out of training, along with other fight or flight reactions. What if you were missing one final ingredient that your boss was looking for but you bailed out just before you discovered it? You could blow the best opportunity of your life because you lack some basic information.
I have been a direct or supporting decision maker on hundreds of hires and promotions over the past two decades. I have experienced managers with targeted hiring and promotion plans as well as individuals who hire or promote based upon gut instincts. Today we will focus on gut instinct employers.
Lots of great decisions and just as many poor decisions have been made on gut instincts. Law enforcement officers tell stories of how their instincts led them to the location of a victim. Mothers tell stories of how their maternal instincts provided them with the insight to save their child. Animal instincts determine which animal lives or dies in the jungle daily. The list goes on. At some point in our lives, we all have made decisions based upon our instincts. Instincts can become the emotion that will keep us safe when we run out of ideas. Or the emotion that kicks in when we are scared as hell.
So what characteristics must you have in order to avoid the challenge of not meeting your bosses instinctual requirements? That’s a difficult question. Oftentimes the decision maker doesn’t realize he or she has an instinctual preference when it comes to hiring. I’ve seen managers who hire from a gut feeling that makes them 100% beyond the shadow of doubt feel they are making the perfect hiring decision. Ask the managers why, and most can’t articulate the feeling. However, they will point out similarities between the candidate and themselves.
Is my manager a racist if she follows her instinctual employee preference? “Everyone she hires looks just like her and graduated from her college”. My answer is NO!!!
I’ll give you an example that may challenge the way you answer this question. First I’d like to tell you about an old boss we will call “Nick.” Nick was a Caucasian quarterback for a professional football team who played the majority of his life with mostly African American male teammates. They created a pocket of protection around him for over 20 years of his life as a quarterback which kept him safe while he won games and earned millions. From Nick’s little league days until he retired from the NFL, he trusted a group of mostly African American males to cover his six and keep him safe from a blindside hit that could end his career or life in extreme situations. After Nick retired and opened his own company, some employees observed a higher than usual number of African American male employees with the company and brought it to Nicks attention. Nick had never seen a color difference on the field as an athlete, but developed a level of trust from a team that helped him find success from his childhood and into his adulthood. Nick was highly offended by the rumors of racial preference, but began to think about the excitement he felt as he hired these young motivated athletes. When he managed his team at his company he began to notice the feeling of being surrounded by fellow athletes that he had experienced on the football field. Nick noticed he also hired female volleyball players, basketball players and other athletes. Nicks hiring preference wasn’t about color at all but a work-ethic which he believed only athletes possessed. Once Nick realized he truly had a hiring preference, he began to write down all of the characteristics of the athletes he trusted so he could look for those qualities in all prospective candidates. Soon Nick looked at all candidates who were self-motivated, strong, smart, loyal, team players who had a passion for winning and not just athletes. It’s very easy for us to make assumptions about a boss or leader without knowing what motivates them. Stop assuming and start communicating with your boss, banker or investor. Research their past and know where they would like to go in the future. Making excuses is not a habit found in successful leaders or entrepreneurs. It cost ZERO dollars to conduct online research or to have a face to face conversation so make it happen.
Nick’s reputation was attacked by several people around him as he identified his hiring preference. He was accused of being an extreme liberal with motives for hiring women and minorities. Some African Americans accused him of having a plantation owner mentality and only liked to see black people working for him. Nick was so damn confused with all the rumors, he didn’t know what to think. All he wanted to do was build a high performance team and have fun doing it. I was a great friend to Nick and laughed at his situation. I let him know “better him than me”. Sorry Nick. Once Nick was able to speak clearly about his vision and team concept, he silenced his critics. Instincts will make us see good people as bad and the opposite if we don’t learn to go beyond our initial instincts and impression of an individual in the business world. Most of the time, we are all fighting for the same cause but have a slightly different way of accomplishing it.
Instincts have their place in the world of survival, but should not be a tool used in your daily success strategy. Learn to look in the mirror and find out why you have comfort in the individuals you hire or promote. Do you have a success strategy that includes the proven DNA of who will succeed at the specific job? Or, do you simply feel comfortable with a specific personality type that makes you feel safe? When leaders have their backs against the wall, they will always count on the people they trust the most. Ask Michael Jordan’s Coach… But don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and trust individuals who may not look like you or have your same background as long as they prove their loyalty and performance. Yes, I’m talking to you Millennials and Baby Boomers. You both need each other. So stop thinking the worst about each other and share your strengths. Just pretend to be cool like us Gen X’ers and it will all work out. #LivFearless and I’ll TTYL.
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