Let me introduce you to Ted. A software engineer. An amazing talent! He could solve any technology-related problem he encountered. Extraordinary intelligence. He was passionate about technology. He was constantly coming up with creative solutions to fix difficult and long-standing issues.
Yet, for all his ability, Ted possessed one debilitating weakness. One that would likely derail his promising career. He had a toxic attitude! He possessed more intelligence than his peers. Unfortunately, he was not shy about letting them know. He berated otherís ideas. He was constantly attacking the solutions of his peers in ways that became personal. He was extremely sensitive to criticism and feedback. He was not particularly receptive to ideas other than his own.
He was followed by a trail of chaos and low team morale. Numerous times, Ted had received coaching and feedback from his manager. Yet he refused to change. Inevitably, Ted was encouraged to move on.
Ironically, while his personal production and work output was rather incredible, the collective team output improved when he left. A sad case of addition by subtraction. Yet another example of how amazing talent is not enough to overcome a miserable attitude.
The three critical components of success in the modern workplace, ordered by importance are attitude, talent or aptitude, and skill. While talent and skills are important components to high performance, attitude is the most critical and the best indicator of an employee's success. Todayís work environments are extremely collaborative, and the ability to interact with others is critical.
Attitude has a strong correlation with a number of other critical core-competencies. An employee's attitude is a likely indicator on how they will rate in each of the following competencies.
Interestingly, numerous organizations conduct their hiring process in the reverse order of importance. They place the most importance on skills, which are the easiest to acquire. While these organizations may profess to place importance on talent and attitude, they often do a poor job of assessing these qualities.
The reason is that the level of difficulty in assessing a quality is directly proportional to its level of importance. Skills are very easy to measure, talent and aptitude are somewhat more difficult, and assessing attitude is quite challenging.
It's much easier to disguise a poor attitude, and often can be accomplished for a reasonable length of time. Often poor attitudes are disguised long enough for a new hire to convince their new team that they are a worthy team member. While behavior and attitude changes are not impossible, they are difficult. Most people with poor attitudes eventually revert back to their behavioral mean. This is the cause for the surprisingly high number of failed hires.
As a software leader, you will need to make sure that your assessment of new hires places the proper amount of importance on attitude. This includes the time you spend during the interview focusing on candidate attitude, as well as the time you spend preparing behavioral assessments prior to the interview. The behavioral assessments need to be structured in a way that will provide you with an appropriate picture of a candidate's attitude.
As a leader, you set the attitudinal tone. If you possess a positive attitude, that will be reflected in your team. Negative attitudes are contagious, and you need to make sure that neither you nor any member of your team possesses one. One negative attitude can destroy the morale of an entire team, and you need to make sure that you deal with them immediately. If you have team members who aren't willing to improve their attitude and don't respond to coaching, you need to let them go. The success and health of your team depends on it.