Talent Plus Effort Equals Great Results

Picture representing basketball metaphor of talent plus energy equals great results

As you probably know by now – my favorite metaphors are sports related – especially basketball metaphors . For our new readers, a little background: In addition to a full schedule as a retained executive recruiter, speaker, author, and partner in a thriving Internet hiring business, I also coach high girls basketball and run a youth basketball organization with over 8 teams and 100 kids.

This summer I had the pleasure of coaching over 60 basketball games in two months. Through that experience, I’ve gained reinforcement on some basic thoughts around human performance that extends from 9 year olds all the way up to senior corporate executives. Exceptional human performance – obtaining great results is a combination of “Talent” and “Effort”.

Let’s define both “Talent” and “Effort” before going any further.

Talent is the mixture of knowledge, skills, and understanding of how to apply them. Raw intellectual horsepower or years of experience and skill development is not enough. Successful individuals need to also be able to apply their intellectual capability and skills in adapting to different problems and issues.

Talent on the basketball court is observed through dribbling and ball handling skills, the ability to execute a play, make a proper lay-up, and recognize appropriate court spacing on offense. How do you observe talent on your team? How do you measure it in an interview?

To be a top performer, you must possess talent. But there is a greater element which frequently trumps pure talent and acts as a multiplier to those who possess high talent. This greater element is “EFFORT”.

Effort is the energy someone brings to a task. It’s sustained intensity, hard work, going above and beyond the call of duty. It’s the ability to get through set-backs, disappointments, and failure. It’s a mental attitude that allows great performers to bounce back and keep operating at a peak level of performance. It’s easy to observe on the basketball court. It get’s exhibited through:

  • being the first one back down the court on defense
  • getting on the floor to scramble for loose balls
  • going after rebounds instead of standing flat footed and praying your teammate will get it
  • moving your feet on defense in the last few minutes of the game instead of reaching out and trying to smack the ball

Effort is simply outworking your teammates and adversaries. It’s easy to spot in sports. How do you spot it in the business world?

Effort is the great “X” factor. Effort is the multiplier that takes knowledge, skill, capacity and leverages it to a whole new level. Frequently, someone with extraordinary effort can outperform others with high talent levels but lower effort levels.

Have you ever seen this?

Does an example come to mind?

As you look around at your cubicle mates, team members, bosses, peers – can you see examples of how their effort is greater or weaker than your effort?

Have you ever seen someone apply themselves at a higher level – and surpass-beat-outperform their peers (who by the way went to better schools, had better job opportunities, and came from more wealthy backgrounds?

Could you share an example with our readers?

I’ll bet you’ve got hundreds of examples collected over 5, 10, or 25 years of managing and leading.

So, let’s bring this back to the hiring process.

Once you’ve determined the quality of a candidate’s talent level – which is very measurable (knowledge, skills, application, execution, how do you measure “effort?”. Here are a few examples of measuring “effort” in the interview:

  • Ask for examples of accomplishments
  • Find out where they had to overcome problems
  • What’s their daily activity level look like
  • Get examples of where they’ve outworked peers on projects and tasks
  • Collect precise details on initiative and being proactive
  • Keep probing for where they went above and beyond the call of duty
  • Ask for illustrations where they did more than they were asked

The next time you’re  looking to hire top talent, remember to probe for both “talent” and “effort”. Finding candidates who bring both these elements to the table, will astound you.


P.S. If you liked this blog post on Talent and Effort in Getting Great Results, download our FREE “Hiring Methodology Assessment” so that you can determine if you’ve got a process in place to hire top talent.

We’re working on a new interview template for measuring EFFORT in the interview. If you download the Hiring Process Assessment, we’ll also send you the “Measuring EFFORT in the Interview Template” as soon as it’s ready.

Barry Deutsch

About the Author

Barry Deutsch is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Barry is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.

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