Hire for charisma, train for skills
We have all heard the adage, "Hire for character and train for skills." A/E/P firms really need to "get" this idea. Most don't do it. They're focused on PE registrations and degrees and knowledge of specific types of software when in reality most of that stuff can be taught/overcome by the right orientation and training.
Character, however, cannot be taught. If you are dishonest, unethical, mean-spirited, negative, hostile, antagonistic, or too ego-centric you will ultimately fail in spite of degrees and years of experience. But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about charisma.
I think charisma has a bad name today. Thanks to "Good to Great," so many people believe charismatic leaders are a bad thing – they aren't "Level 5" leaders. I have already written about that. I think it’s B.S. A/E firms are not (for the most part), multi-billion dollar, publicly traded enterprises. By and large they are closely held private professional service firms – with the emphasis on "professional." That means you need more than a brand or institution to succeed. You need professionals. Lots of them – lots of good ones – ones who can inspire people and create a following.
Charisma is a big part of that. It is a hard-to-define quality that some people have and some don't. It is, in part, how they look. It is how they carry themselves. How they dress. How they communicate. How they act.
Here's the difference. The charismatic person walks into a room of strangers and 30 minutes later has a crowd around them – talking, laughing, smiling – and they're forming new relationships, some of which could last a lifetime. The non-charismatic person may join in but no one really notices them or pays any particular attention to what they say or do. And I'm not talking about extroverts versus introverts here. I have seen charismatic introverts in this business. One of the best examples was the late Joe Lalli, FASLA, former CEO of EDSA. He was a charismatic introvert if there ever was one.
These charismatic people don't have to be leaders/managers/owners, either. They can start out as simply professionals, working on projects and interfacing with others. Of course, they will probably grow into leaders because they can – and that's good because we all need more leaders. Our organizations' growth rate is directly related to it.
Are you specifically talking about charisma as a job qualification? Are you looking for people with it? Or are you falling into the same old traps everyone else is? If you want a hunting dog – you'd better pick one that has the qualities needed to be a good one. Make sense? Think about it – and better yet – act on it.
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is from issue 1157 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.