By Jeff Moore
When I ask an audience, “How many of you like to win?” hands shoot up quickly. When I follow up with, “Does winning require having top performers on board?” everyone nods. Yet despite a fervent desire to win and a sense of urgency to find top performers, hiring success rates remain abysmal. Studies indicate that almost half of all new hires fail within the first 18 months.
Where’s the disconnect? While most companies intend to look for top performers, they’re actually searching for something else. Remember the song, “Lookin’ For Love In All The Wrong Places?” Right now too many companies are looking for “people in all the wrong places.” They have become too enamored with the words talent and fit. In reality, top performers are often not the most talented people in a candidate pool and they are never a perfect fit. What top performers do have in common is the ability to rise to the occasion when everyone around them is equally talented – in large part because they do not fit! What sets them apart is a high Striver Quotient™.
What are Strivers? They are people who succeed by reaching beyond their grasp and owning the higher goal. A simple example is a stonemason who isn’t just helping build a new church – he’s building a cathedral for the future. Extreme Strivers, like the late Steve Jobs, are completely absorbed with becoming better. What does the stonemason have in common with Steve Jobs? They are both driven by a purpose that transcends winning. And that purpose is to move themselves, their team, and their company to achieve higher goals.
Tom Friedman was describing Strivers when he reported in his new book, “That Used To Be Us,” that the top companies are all looking for the same thing – people who can adapt, invent, and re-invent their jobs. Strivers are highly adaptive and they constantly re-invent themselves to achieve higher goals.
The economy was once merely an uncertain environment with multiple variables. We drew on our intelligence (IQ) to forecast which variable to select and our emotional intelligence (EQ) to mobilize the collaborative effort required for seamless execution. But today we live in a more rapidly changing world full of ambiguity. The workplace has become a very fluid environment where the wonder widget designed yesterday is on a fast track to obsolescence today because someone in Estonia has already built a better prototype. Now the only constant is exponential change. An executive at CISCO told me recently, “I used to be able to work on a project for a fairly long time and, as long as I did a good job, I’d be fine. Now if I don’t come up with a fresh initiative on a regular basis, they’ll find someone else who will!”
But being a Striver involves much more than just individual goals. A total package Striver also cultivates three key relationships: team, boss, and direct reports. Strivers buy into the team concept. But they reject the conventional ‘kumbaya’ view of teamwork, the notion that everyone must ‘get along’ at all times. They thrive in “Strive Together” work environments where creative tension is embraced. Just as tension is required to strengthen muscles, it is also vital to strengthening relationships. In Strive Together cultures teammates compete with each other, respectfully challenge their boss to consider new ideas, and inspire their direct reports to stretch and stretch and then stretch some more. The notion that everyone must blend and ‘get along’ works fine in a social setting, but not in a competitive environment particularly if the goal is to be the industry leader. Teams that simply blend together can be good, but not great. The ultimate team bonding occurs in work environments where a competitive zeal is palpable.
Striving used to be the key to staying ahead of the game. Now it is required to stay in the game. IQ and EQ abilities are no longer sufficient. The game changer is employees with strong SQ qualities. Top performers in today’s disruptive economy have a high Striver Quotient™.
Jeff Moore’s Women’s Tennis Team’s at the University of Texas won two national championships, captured 18 conference championships, and had a 100 percent graduation rate. As CEO of Moore Leadership, he has created the Striver Quotient™ to help companies find top performers.
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