If you were a football coach looking for a new offensive lineman, your list of potential players would probably include exclusively athletes that weigh 300 pounds or more. If you were a basketball coach on the hunt for a new center, your list would feature players taller than 6’9”. This isn’t because thin or short players aren’t talented, but it’s because there are certain innate attributes players need in order to succeed in their positions.
The same is true in business. Instead of physical traits, each position within your company implicitly requires employees to have certain attributes in order to succeed within their specific job. These attributes aren’t skills, however, since they cannot necessarily be learned or refined. Instead, attributes are innate characteristics. There are many things you can teach your employees, of course–how to identify growth opportunities, client relationships, organize their team, and so on–but you can’t teach attributes, like creativity.
When thinking of attributes, think in terms of a scale, say, one to 100. While a person with very little creativity–perhaps 25 out of 100–could work on improving their creativity, but they will likely never improve to a 75 because they do not have the natural attributes to be creative. Moreover, the time and energy devoted to trying to be more creative would be better spent in an area where they are naturally talented.
When an employee doesn’t have the right attributes for their position, it creates problems that you, as a leader, may need to step in and handle. For example, I once worked at a company with a human resources (HR) officer who made his peers feel uncomfortable because of his brash comments–exactly the opposite of what you hope for in a HR officer. While he was an intelligent and accomplished individual, I realized that he lacked a critical attribute necessary for HR officers: empathy.
Because each individual has a unique set of attributes and because jobs require employees to have certain traits, it’s imperative for leaders to match the people with the right attributes to the right positions. In your company, think of attributes that are necessary for each role and make sure that your staff is currently well-structured from an attribute standpoint. Is your sales team creative to think of ways to service your customers? Do they have empathy to understand our customer’s challenges? If not, it may be time for you to sit down and think of how you can make the best use of your employees by considering their attributes.