Thinkers, Doers and Intelligent Sheep
Bear with me on this one. Living the work/life balance ethos that we wholeheartedly embrace at Consult HR, I was out for a lunchtime power walk when I passed a road called Shepherds Down. What with the Pythons back on stage, this put me in mind of one of my favourite sketches, “There’s nothing so dangerous as an intelligent sheep” where the intelligent sheep had led his followers up a tree and the backing vocal to the sketch was a metronomic “Plummet” (best West Country accent) followed by a thud as each sheep fell out of the tree and hit the ground.
School embedded in me the belief that intellectual intelligence was the most prized human asset; after all the brightest won the prizes and in the main got the leadership roles. So when I recruit the first thing I look for is some proof of mental agility, not that humbling intelligence one very occasionally finds in people, just some demonstration that the candidate can mix it with leaders with intellectual horsepower. Of course IQ is not the whole story and is best executed alongside those much more human attributes of emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence. But when you are fighting for resource you do need to be able to marshal your arguments and put together a concise and cohesive case.
I could go two ways with this. Misguided/ing leadership taking you down the wrong path or one of my favourite soap box subjects, Thinkers and Doers. No contest then.
I have another, equally unproven, long held belief that people are either Thinkers or Doers. This doesn’t mean that one cannot do the other, just that people have a preference and it helps if their role reflects that preference. I have been doing this job long enough to meet some thinkers with whom you would be loth to entrust a task (very few actually) and some doers for whom thought seems to be a step too far (sadly too many). In certain circumstances HR can be a bit of a talking shop, but in the main successful HR people are either Thinking Doers or Doing Thinkers. I’m sure we could get bogged down in the mire of high thinking/low doing, low thinking /high doing and all the permutations and put it in a grid but I like the keep it simple thing. The best Thinking Doers are great operationally and add value along the way. The best Doing Thinkers are visionaries and great leaders. And it is, generally, the best that we are all after.
From a career perspective does it impact on the generalist versus specialist debate? Some people straddle the two with assured ease, but I see the generalist as someone whose job is to help a business run often in the commercial hurly-burly and the specialist as someone who revels in taking part of the whole and going deep to make it good, better or different.
So if you are a Thinking Doer, which choice would you make? Of course it might depend where you are in terms of emotional or spiritual intelligence. Or are you better off just choosing an organisation where you are at one with the culture? Simple? Not on your life. That’s the joy of HR recruitment.
Nigel Murray is one of the founding partners of Consult HR and leads the Consult HR Executive practice. Over the last 10 years he has a 100% track record of delivering assignments, 97% of those he has helped to hire have spent at least 2 years in role and over 60% of them are still with the businesses that hired them.
This is the third article in his series “Observations from Offstage” garnered from 35 years of finding great HR talent.