This is a story that Ben Zander tells in his book The Art of Possibility.


“Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing the affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fists on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon, Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again, twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My friend, I have seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secrets of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister, “Rule Number 6 is Don’t Take Yourself so damn seriously.”


In our company, I do much of the business development activity and in that capacity I very clearly see the opportunities that exist in the market place for our type of managed recruiting service. As I do research on potential clients I can identify where in their talent acquisition and retention process our company’s services could add tremendous value and contribute to that company’s profits and success. I know that our company has done great work for our clients, and will continue to bring value to future clients. So when I make my well crafted pitch to potential clients and don’t get the positive response I know should be there, I have moments where I could exhibit the outbursts of Peter and Marie, and then I remember Rule Number 6.


Our company’s service, as good as it is, may not be the most important thing on the minds of the hiring managers, the talent managers, the HR Directors, the CFOs, CEOs with whom I speak. Believe it or not, in most companies, talent acquisition and retention only become important when there is a need to fill a position because some one left, new business demands more people or someone in a position is not working out and needs to be replaced. The moment that I feel that my call, my proposal, my company’s solution is the only thing that matters, then I have taken myself too seriously and need to be reminded of Rule Number 6.


The fact is, Rule Number 6 applies to everyone, and especially those involved in the business of finding and hiring great talent. And this applies to candidates as well.


  • Recruiters need to understand that not all great candidates will accept your offer when you would like, and not all hiring managers will provide prompt feedback on your candidates.
  • Hiring Managers need to understand that just because you have a need doesn’t mean that that talent exists on every street corner. Great talent is hard to find.
  • HR Directors need to understand that your opening and your company are not the only game in town and that the way to attract great talent starts with a well crafted, meaningful job/position profile.
  • Candidates need to understand that just because you responded to a job posting, doesn’t make you the center of attention and the only one qualified for that position.


All need to remember Rule Number 6. It is not about me or you it is about them, and “them” is the client, the company, the decision maker and what their needs are. So keep in mind Rule Number 6.


If you are wondering about the other rules, the story continues.


“”Ah”, says the visiting prime minister, “Rule Number 6 is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”


“There aren’t any.”

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