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Knowledge or Attitude: Which do you choose?


It's an age-old management dilemma - do you want someone you can train your way, and have to invest all that time, OR get someone to work for you who's great at their job, but set in their ways?


Naturally, life isn't quite so black and white. We always believe we can train someone easily and get them ramped up in no time. And sometimes, this does indeed happen.


Corporate America, though, is a beast that demands speed. Ramping up is good and possible when its a rare skill and there's few that can pull it off. More often than not, though, managers end up compromising. They figure they can bring on the smart one and chisel away the rough edges through coaching, training, and mentoring. Through personal experience, I can attest that this works.


If we step back for a minute though, this is at it's core a question about how managers should - or shouldn't - use their time.


How much should a manager train, and how much should a manager, manage?


Every manager's ultimate job is to render themselves obsolete, in the sense that they build a team and system that is so self-driven, high performance and self-correcting, that not much intervention is really required. Allowing the manager to self-develop instead of putting out fires all day.


You might say, but how does that answer the question?


Actually, it answers it perfectly. If as a manager, your time is precious, and your skill is mentoring the attitude through smart incentivization, then that's your approach to take. Instead, if you feel that you'd rather work with unmolded clay and be the master potter, then that's the path to take - provided the organization gives you the time and there is no margin for error.


A secondary question may be - is it easier to train out skills versus chisel away the wrong attitude? The good thing with both is, that with the right organizational culture, a massive amount of filtering takes place before you even meet the prospective new hire. Wrong attitude that is entirely unfixable is weeded out (largely) in the hiring process and abysmal lack of skill is easy to disqualify without the hiring manager feeling bad about it.


What it really comes down to is - do you, not as a manager, but as a LEADER - see a "diamond in the rough"?


The smart hire with the bad attitude or the hardworking earnest hire that is figuring it out - either one should, in your mind's eye, show a bright core of promise and potential.

With all your knowledge and experience, you will KNOW that this can or cannot be fixed.


If you have a clear vision for your team and organization, and this new person fits into that vision, then train and mentor away to glory. For ultimately this is less a matter of one or two hires and more a matter of long term success, and finally, glory.

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