Just last week, a friend asked a question about the way I classify employees with respect to what they deliver to their organizations. So I decided to write a post about it. When thinking about the candidates organizations may be interested in hiring, I like to keep things simple and classify them into two categories. Experts or Performers. Yes I know what your immediate reaction will be Hassan, don’t make things so simple because they aren’t. Yes, I agree often they aren’t but trust me guys – at times they are that simple. I like to look at a potential hire with these two lenses because it makes my job easier and simplifies my hiring decision. Believe it or not, I have been pretty darn good with this. Let’s see why I believe so.

Experts are perfectionists. These are the folks with years and years (at times decades) of experience under their belt in the field of their specialty. They are mature in their thinking – too mature maybe for a customer-responsive, innovative and growth-savvy organization. Experts weigh in their knowledge and advice on important decisions. Theirs is the carefully chosen path. Risks mitigated – all corners covered. They take pride in their expertise and profession. Often like to work in organizations with established hierarchy and a set career path. Intuition is the element that’s long been suppressed – rationale is what they relish. Organizations with mature work processes find them to be a perfect fit. In my eyes, they are process-improving machines where problems are pushed in and a rational solution will come out the other end.

Performers are the ones who are never short on ideas. You often hear them ask the WHY question in the cafeteria. You might often find them jumping the gun on tough decisions but if encouraged, their idea train would take you places you hadn’t dreamed of. They are usually the fresh perspective guys – irrespective of the longevity of their careers. They just have the attitude of ‘why not’ and ‘what else’. Often Performers are young blood – the fresh graduate, the newly transitioned into an industry or new to management. They may be short on sound and calculated advice at times, but never short on commitment or energy. Think of the pizza delivery guy who wants to work extra hours just before the Spring break – yes that’s them. If you lead them, you don’t need to bring a sense of urgency to every task – because they do it for you. They thrive when systems, processes and structures are still taking shape and evolving.

So who should you hire!

Market trends show that a particular type of organizations is hiring Performers and it has no co-relation to the size of the company or the state of its business growth. So what sets these organizations apart? Their attitude! Yes, I call it the Responsive Attitude. It is not the one with the reactive attitude, one that waits for the competition to beat them to the next product or market before they call in the emergency board meeting. It’s not even the one with the proactive attitude, one that would be trying out too many new things in search of the Killer App or next iPhone. These organizations are structured enough to have a strategic focus and flexible enough to revisit it from time to time – just the right balance. Having the Responsive Attitude means you are following up on your plans but you are constantly in touch with your customers in various markets to see what they are saying about you, your products, your delivery process and your customer service. These organizations are seeking Performers because they are ready to put out a product that is 80% ready TODAY then release the fully tested one NEXT WEEK. Performers help them make that decision. Experts would still be covering corne

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Comment by Charles Van Heerden on November 10, 2009 at 4:12am
Hassan, very pertinent to the culture development of high-performance organizations.

What you refer to as attitude is the underlying culture of the business - companies with a strong performance orientation get things done. There is a buzz and and an energy that flows through the business, energizing staff to be truly outcome focused. It is great working in such a company, if you are a performer.

In reality, the majority of companies tend to settle for both types of people. In many technical management roles you would find the expert, with performers in the front-end sales business. Having worked in IT, it can be quite challenging if your sales people are already selling the next version, which has already been included in your RFP's, but your developers are struggling to keep up. Microsoft Vista springs to mind.

This dichotomy can often create tension within companies, between different departments. Having performers with a bias for action in all parts of the business is critical to shift the culture to become more results-orientated.
Comment by Hassan Rizwan on November 11, 2009 at 4:04am
Thanks Charles for your perspective.
Rayanne, That's a thought provoking piece that we dont actually understand the the kind of hire that is required.
Thanks for sharing your views.
Comment by Ann Clifford on November 11, 2009 at 2:00pm
I like your simplistic approach. I often use the terms "thinker" vs "doer." Regardless of the role, action makes things happen.
Comment by Eric Osterman on November 11, 2009 at 5:38pm
Hassan I really liked this piece. I'd be interested to see the amount of time experts spend in "meetings" compared to performers.


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