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By David Harder on August, 14, 2017

The Single Most Important and Overlooked Trait in Good Hires

The wise holocaust survivor and philosopher Elie Wiesel said, “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.” This dynamic that Mr. Wiesel describes can exponentially grow in its impact on an organization. Over the years, I have often been asked to help an employer decide between two top candidates. I usually respond, “Hire the one that is most grateful.” Why? These are the individuals that are inherently skilled in connecting with others; they bring positive energy to a team, and they demonstrate predictably strong and sustained performance.


We can gauge the “attitude toward gratitude” by watching and listening. Gratitude is often displaced by consumerism. Elizabeth Taylor was once asked to describe her basic spiritual philosophy and she responded, “More.” Taylor actually displayed enormous gratitude in her later years but think of it. When we want something different than what we have, it is hard to be grateful for that.


I write about, evaluate, and build employee engagement every day. The grateful tend to be generous in praising others and are gracious when praise is directed towards them. This dynamic is key to building and sustaining effective support systems. We didn’t need a lot of support in the old industrial revolution workplace – clocking-in and clocking-in seemed to be sufficient. But in today’s rapidly changing workplace, we need the right help all of the time. The praise-filled workplace is a helpful and engaged place to work.


I’m a big fan of critical thinking. There was a career book out many years ago called, Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. I never bought the premise. But, I prefer Andy Warhol’s outlook when he said, “Do what you love, you can always sell it.” This is a far more active and optimistic outlook. Mr. Warhol’s results speak for themselves. The problem with the human mind is that we can reframe critical thinking as cynicism and even contempt. When a candidate freely and regularly uses the word “should” the hair goes up on the back of my neck. Because really, the only purpose of the word should is to indicate that wherever I am, it is the wrong place. Gratitude and harsh judgment cannot occupy the same place.


Gratitude shows up in words like, life is good, this is my dream job, I can’t believe I get paid to do this, I love the people that I work with, everyone has a smile on his or her face, people love me, they helped me get through difficult times, we solved that challenge together, so many people helped me do this, and more.


This past week was difficult. On Friday, we had a memorial service for my brother-in-law. He was 54 when the police found him in an intersection. He was slumped over the wheel in his car. Gone in an instant. He was the chair of the English department. He helped raise two of the most brilliant children I have ever known. He impacted many, many people. After the service, my partner and I went to the Diana Krall concert at the Hollywood Bowl. She delivered one of those sublime and transformative performances. Walking down the hill, I stepped in a grease spot, flew, sprained my ankle and tore a hole in my suit. The following morning I decided that I simply had to make it to a spiritual support group near our home. It is on the beach. I hobbled to my seat in pain feeling physically and emotionally banged up. But, during that meeting, I watched the waves roll in, and realized that I literally get to live across the street. I realized that all the challenges that I have today are high-quality problems. It is a high-quality problem to fall at a Diana Krall concert. It is a high-quality problem to wrestle with all the love in my life. It is a high-quality problem to have fatigue because I’m running a business and doing a media tour. It is a high-quality problem to grieve the loss of a great human being.


This is the nature of gratitude. Instead of dealing with survival, we get to work on becoming better human beings. The challenge is no longer how to get through the day, it is how to be kinder and more loving by the end of the day. The focus isn’t just making as much or accumulating as much power as possible. It is about how many lives we can touch, how much we can improve the world, and how we can help others be their very best.


This is what I look for in candidates.


We work towards building organizations filled with talented people who can also connect, look people in the eye, ask skilled questions, and demonstrate active listening. We seek to grow talent that explores the world of change around them, defines needed change within themselves, and speaks the truth. And as our talent develops the skills that build strong support systems, new intelligence flows in from the outside world, bringing innovation and critical improvements to organizational performance. As they build stronger relationships within and without, the culture becomes unstoppable. Employees develop an unparalleled sense of gratitude that stems from their ongoing personal growth, the precious quality of their work relationships, and the unshakable confidence that they can deal with anything the world of change dishes out to them. Yes, the reality will be messier than this bold vision suggests, but it is where we set our intentions that so very important.


This is what hiring the grateful leads to.


Brought to you by David Harder – Founder & President, Inspired Work, Inc.


(C) Copyright, 2017, David Harder – (All Rights Reserved)


Buy a copy of David’s new book The Workplace Engagement Solution here.