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The Answer To The Achievement Equation

I often hear the hiring process is a crapshoot. Sometimes the candidates with the best credentials turn out to be the worst employees, while less qualified candidates become rock stars. Why is this? To find out, let’s examine the achievement equation.

Achievement = Skill x Effort

The key components of skill are training and experience. The more skilled we become, the faster we are at accomplishing the task in which we have the expertise. This speed allows us to complete more tasks than non-experts in a given time period, opening the door to potential achievement.

In the business world, IQ or intelligence does provide an advantage in the development of skill in that people with higher IQ’s grasp concepts faster than people with lower IQ’s. This enables them to learn more in less time… again, opening the door to potential achievement.

Effort is time on task or deliberate practice. One’s character determines effort and the specific character trait that drives deliberate practice is self-discipline. The extreme form of self-discipline is known as grit. Gritty people are relentless and determined to remove the barriers that prevent them from achieving their goals.

Interestingly, according to Dr. Martin Seligman, there is little correlation between IQ and self-discipline. In his book Flourish, he quotes Angela Lee Duckworth as saying, “Tremendous effort can compensate for modest skill, just as tremendous skill can compensate for modest effort, but not if either is zero.” This explains why some people with very high IQ’s fail to achieve their full potential.

I believe we are too focused on one variable of the achievement equation, skill, rather than the other variable, effort. Hiring the smartest candidate with the impressive background is wonderful, but only if she has the self-discipline to put in the effort to succeed.

The next time you interview a candidate, try asking for examples of self-discipline and effort because the best indicator of future success is true grit.

Perhaps the philosophy of W.E. Hickson’s proverb provides us the key to hiring the right candidate:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.


Click here to learning more about influence and decision making in my book, PERSUADED, available on Amazon.

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