Archer and Leopard

Talent vs. Attitude

“An organization filled with honest, motivated, connected, eager, learning, experimenting, ethical and driven people will always defeat the one that merely has talent. Every time.”

That’s from Seth Godin’s recent post “The Truth About the War for Talent.”  And it nicely reflects something I’ve thought about a lot as Avvo has grown crazily over the last few years.

Maybe when we say “talent” we really mean that killer blend of the right skills and the right approach.  But having worked in American business now for nearly two decades, I can report that we continue to give an outsized rating to markers of a more traditional definition of “talent:” educational attainment, certifications, ability to perform on tests, skills-based interviewing, etc.

Not to say these things aren’t important, but in almost any field there’s a wide mushy middle where everyone has cleared the “competence” bar.  From that point, exceptional performance is driven by attitude.  The fact that one candidate scored higher on an interview test or went to a better school matters far, far less than:

  • Who is willing to own the business outcomes and relentlessly drive them forward?
  • Who is going to actually deliver on what they say they’re going to do?
  • Who is going to focus on fixing problems rather than fixing blame?
  • Who is willing to take smart risks?
  • Who contributes positive energy to the group?

Possessing the skills to do the job – even advanced skills to do the job –  is now no more than table stakes.   Attitude is where it’s at.

(Image: An Azappo Archer with a Cheetah (about 1575), from the J. Paul Getty Museum)

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