Lou Holtz, a retired American football coach and an active sportscaster, was being interviewed on radio about bowl games, the NFL and football talent. He said something that I thought was profound; that he sees, “Work ethic as a talent.”
He said when he was selecting players for his college teams he was as interested in how hard they worked and how interested in improving they were (versus their raw, natural talent.)
I thought that was quite insightful as we leaders look for talent in our organizations. Since our firm helps people select the right talent to bring into an organization and train on how to grow the talent once they get there, we find the same thing to be true—work ethic is a talent.
Work Ethic and Curiosity Is A Deadly Combination for Performance
One of my clients used to tell me that if he could find ten people with a great work ethic he would be able to build a world-class team. His feeling on curiosity was that markets are changing so fast along with technology and customer demands that you must have a high curiosity factor if you are to find the problems customers have and learn new ways to produce better results for your companies.
3 Personality Traits That Can Determine Someone’s Work Ethic
We use the Hogan Assessment Report for selection and development. It allows us, as trainers, to predict job performance.
Throughout our work, we’ve noticed there are three personality traits which indicate how teachable, trainable and adaptable someone is:
Ambition is the degree to which a person has a full fuel tank and does not need artificial motivation to get them out of bed in the morning. They are wired to take initiative.
Yes, high ambition people can leave a trail of blood where they go but if you temper that with some other factors on the assessment you will have a killer performer.
Prudence is the other factor that figures into work ethic. That has to do with conscientiousness. Can a person create a plan and work the plan? Are they attentive to the details – and how one moves from A to B?
Yes, you can measure curiosity. Give me someone who is curious about how to do better, conscientious about their behavior and ambitious about what’s possible, and I’ll show you a high-performer.
So Lou Holtz is right, work ethic are both talents that you, as a leader, should explore with your people. You might not be able to fire someone who doesn’t have it, but you can certainly make sure the next people in the organization are tested for those attributes.