Hiring the best people

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“You can’t send a duck to eagle school”

You have to admit,  when you saw the headline of Colin Thompson’s short article. Ducks? Eagles? What’s this to do with business? But you will be simply stunned by the truth behind this kind of funny sentence. What about you? Do you think you can train a duck to become an eagle?

A few years ago I had lunch with a top executive from a company known for their legendary retail service. My wife and I are both huge fans, and over lunch I shared with him some of the great service stories his people had provided the Thompson family.

I said, “With the service your people give…you must have a training manual 2 inches thick.” He looked up and said, “Colin, we do not have a training manual. What we do is find the best people we can find and we empower them to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer.”

Then he said something I’ll never forget. He said, “We learned a long time ago that you cannot send a duck to eagle school.”

“Excuse me,” I said. He repeated… “You cannot send a duck to eagle school.” He said, “You cannot teach someone to smile, you cannot teach someone to want to serve, you cannot teach personality. What we can do, however, is hire people who have those qualities and we can then teach them about our products and teach them our culture.”

As long as I live I will never forget this simple analogy about hiring people. It is branded on my brain forever. And since that day, with every hiring decision I’ve made, I find myself asking the question: “Am I hiring a duck thinking they will become an eagle?”

I can also honestly say that asking this simple question has saved me from making some important hiring mistakes. I just wish I’d heard it 20 years sooner.


About the author: Colin is a former successful Managing Director of Transactional/Print Manufacturing Plants, Document Management/Workflow Solutions companies and other organisations, former Group Chairman of the Academy for Chief Executives, Non-Executive Director, Mentor – RFU Leadership Academy, Mentor – Coventry University, Mentor – The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, helping companies raise their `bottom-line` and `increase cash flow`. Plus, helping individuals to be successful in business and life in general. Author of several publications, research reports, guides, business and educational models on CD-ROM/Software/PDF and over 1000 articles published on business and educational subjects worldwide. Plus, International Speaker/Visiting University Professor. View Colin’s short bio

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