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High Achievement – Repeatable or Situational?

High Achievement – Repeatable or Situational?

A Tourist with a backpack standing on a mountain top above the clouds and looking at the view. Direct sunlight. Clear blue sky. Winter. Mountaineering. Ukraine. Carpathians

Sometimes, all the stars align and your results exceed your wildest expectations. This may be where “preparation meets opportunity”, as the saying goes.

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Andrew Carnegie would undoubtedly be wildly successful no matter their circumstances in life. But it is the combination of preparation and opportunity on a massive scale that made them amongst the richest men who ever lived. Being in the right place, at the right time (ideally positioned to take advantage of the digital & industrial revolutions) combined with their talent and motivation. That’s what makes billion-dollar fortunes.

“So what’s your point, Harrison?”, you may be asking. “Are you trying to remind me I’m never going to be a billionaire? Thanks for that!”

Bear with me on this. Let’s look at another scenario.

Suppose you’re the most talented salesperson that ever lived, but in a rare moment of insanity, you decide it would be a good idea to take a job selling ice to eskimos. All preparation, no opportunity. How’s that going to work out for you?

What about someone of mediocre ability and dedication, who happened to be in the right place at the right time? A booming market. A firm whose brand name alone opens doors. A wide network of internal support – and maybe, they inherited all their top performing accounts from their predecessor.

No doubt, their results will look very impressive indeed. But they won’t be able to replicate them when it counts. Opportunity without preparation – learn how to spot this and it will save you a huge amount of anguish when you are hiring for your team.

The important question is, what percentage preparation and what percentage opportunity?

To understand someone’s true capabilities, look at what they’ve accomplished within context of their circumstances. A simple way to identify this pattern is to look for a trend of performance over time:

  • Do they have a history of being entrusted with the most difficult projects?
  • Have they been a high achiever in a variety of contexts and environments?
  • Have they changed jobs because of choice or circumstance?
  • Are they consistently reaching new heights?

That’s not to say that every job needs a “born winner”. If you need a competent, reliable and not particularly ambitious Account Manager to take care of your existing customers, that’s OK. But you should know what you’re dealing with in a person before you hire them.

That way, you’ll avoid entrusting the building of a high growth sales force to someone who did well once but won’t be able to do it again.

And you’ll also avoid hiring an exceptional talent for a role best suited to a “Steady Eddy”. That’s not good for anyone, either.

This article was written by Harrison Wright Managing Director