Their Attitude + Your Structure = Winning Combination

Wendy Keneipp on September 19, 2012

There are just certain types of people you want on your team. And if you take a few minutes to think about those people, I bet you’ll find they share a few things in common:

  • Good intentions
  • Enthusiasm and contagious energy
  • Willingness and/or excitement to try new things

These are things that are innately part of someone’s personality and not really skills to be developed. Although you might be able to coax some of this behavior out of some folks, mostly, it’s just part of the make-up of the personality.

The great thing about these traits is that it doesn’t matter if it’s the receptionist, an account manager, a producer, a department manager, or the CEO. These traits carry through all positions and all levels of the organization and work to make a difference in everything these people touch.

Combine this good attitude with some structure from the company and you’ve got people you can count on to make a significant difference in the way your company operates, sells, and markets itself to prospective clients.

People like this are willing to be coached and probably want to be coached so they can continuously improve their performance. They will also learn new skills – with enthusiasm.

Neophiliac what?

I read an article in Whole Living magazine by Whitney Joiner about people who thrive on new experiences and changes. Some psychologists say about 15% of the population is made up of neophiliacs, those who love the unfamiliar and are “zealous about life”. On the other end of the spectrum, again about 15% of the population, are neophobes, “people who instinctively avoid new things. These change-averse individuals…are apt to get stuck in emotional and lifestyle ruts, and can be overcautious and worrywarts.”

While these neophobes can add some stability to a group, I want to focus here on the people that are going to help drive change in an organization.

Joiner shares with us information about a 10-year study C. Robert Cloninger, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been conducting about neophiliacs. He talks about these novelty-seekers in ways that directly relate to what we’re trying to achieve with our businesses – especially as we undergo a major transformation of the business model.

We’re seeing that high novelty-seeking is part of the constellation of traits that promotes personal growth. If someone is going to keep growing, they’re not going to be content with what they’ve done in the past, and the advantage to being a novelty seeker is that you’re curious and inquisitive; you explore new things and you’re not rigid.”

He goes on to add some cautionary advice for this group that, again, aligns perfectly with the goals we are trying to achieve in the benefits and insurance industry.

Cloninger tells us that the goal “is to pair novelty seeking with persistence, and with … “self-transcendence” – an interest in working toward something larger. We have to think not only about craving pleasure and getting thrills, but also about what’s meaningful to us. That’s where persistence comes in – it’s a bridge between seeking satisfaction and seeking meaning.”

Put some structure to it

While these novelty-seeking folks are excellent additions to your team, you have to have the structure in the organization to keep their enthusiasm channeled in the right direction. They don’t need, and vehemently oppose, micromanagement.

Instead, they need guardrails. They need a roadmap that shows the destination and then they get to choose the route to get there. They also need to keep focused on that destination and avoid getting pulled off by other bright-and-shiny things that might distract their attention.

Give them the things they need to stay on track:

  • Company purpose (remember they’re working toward something larger)
  • Company vision (where is this trip taking us?)
  • Company culture (expected values and behaviors)
  • Company goals (working toward specific, achievable results that they can influence)
  • Personal goals (specific, achievable results they are directly responsible for)
  • Let them create an individual plan with your help (part of the guardrails – they need some direction so they don’t get distracted)
  • Meet with them regularly for coaching and accountability (they need to talk about their ideas; you want them to finish what they start)

Your time spent with these people talking about ideas, where they think the company should go, and how to get there is like a direct shot of caffeine for boosting their motivation to get going and keep going. Your time spent in exploratory conversation, guidance, and holding them accountable to follow through on projects and ideas will be an excellent investment in the present and future of your business.

So when you’re looking to your next hire, I recommend seeking out people who love new things. They’re adventurous, willing to try things that are unfamiliar, and they’ll likely fail fast and move on to the next idea - thus getting you closer to being the new type of business that you desire to become.

 

Photo by Kris Martis

Topics: Leadership + Management