Management from the Road: You Can’t Teach That

rjb mayA new wrestling superstar tag team is coming up the ranks, Enzo and Big Cass. The one called Enzo is a fast talking, fast-moving character whose gift of gab seems to make up for his lack of height. Big Cass is over 7 feet tall. Watching them wrestle, one can see while they might not be the most technically adept wrestlers in the WWE, the above attributes make them perfect for the job. Enzo and Cass know it too, inciting the audience and leading the chant, “You can’t teach that.”

I consider myself well suited for my professions, teaching and nonprofit management. But I haven’t always been so fortunate. For example, I did a brief stint as a candy striper. I’d been talked into it by Karen, a high school friend of mine. The uniform was cool, so I figured why not?

Karen loved it. She enjoyed being helpful in small and meaningful ways. She relished the moments of chatting with the patients, listening intently to the nurses. As for me, I hated delivering books and magazines or bringing patients ice and water. The mere idea of taking vitals made me woozy. Making small talk? Oh, no. Consequently, as short as it was, my time there was an unmitigated disaster. I didn’t like it and I wasn’t good at it. I simply didn’t have the temperament and other personality traits needed for the job.

When we develop job descriptions and when recruit, we tend to focus on credentials and skill sets, which are two important attributes. We cannot, however, forget about “fit.” This refers to the compatibility of the candidate with the organization and with the job. Two positions, requiring similar skills and credentials, may be very different in practice. Does the job have a fast pace? Require quick thinking and confident, independent responses? Is it more contemplative and done best with patience and collaboration?

Once candidates have been vetted for minimum requirements of experience, education and skills, a good selection process also includes an assessment of fit. The first step could include looking at those who are, or were, successful in the position and determining the traits they possessed. Once you have an idea what you are looking for, you can assess your candidate through a variety of means, including behavioral interviews and references.

Credentials can be attained. Skills can be learned. But no amount of training would have given me the disposition to be happy and successful at candy striping—because you can’t teach that.

Submitted by Robyn-Jay Bage


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