The Hiring Balance: “Can do” vs. “Want to”

October 11, 2019
3 Minutes
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In SaaS businesses, operating results are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.

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In 2014 I found myself leading a SaaS business with a problem: how to hire executives to manage our company’s significant growth. It was a good problem to have, for sure; but it was still a problem. So, we scoped roles, identified job qualifications, established interview processes, activated our networks, and engaged recruiters. But mostly, we hoped. We hoped like crazy to avoid making a bad exec hire, which we knew would leave a trail of pain for months to come.

I was reminded of this personal experience last week while discussing the topic of exec hiring among a small group of entrepreneurs/operators. People consistently shared experiences of having anxiously faced, often unsuccessfully, this quite common business challenge. One entrepreneur helpfully shared the “GWC” framework that he had discovered while implementing the EOS Model outlined in the book Traction. The GWC framework is explained here, but the gist is that you should only hire people who:

  • Get it (G): People either “get it” or they don’t when it comes to their role, the company culture, and the systems that are in place.
  • Want it (W): When someone truly likes his or her job and wants to perform that role.
  • Capacity to do it (C): Capacity isn’t just about having the knowledge to do the job, but also the time as well as the physical and emotional capacity to do the job well.

In considering this framework, I realized that many businesses tend to over-index on the C (Capacity) in the hiring process. No surprise there; it’s understandable for us to optimize around finding someone who has the skills, experience and capabilities to get the job done. In fairness, many organizations fully appreciate the importance of culture and fit; so, the G (Get it) also gets strong consideration. But the W (Want it) often gets lost in the shuffle. Perhaps we are prone to assume or overestimate the degree to which someone wants to work at our companies. For whatever reason, the W receives less thoughtful examination compared to diligence around the G and the C. Reflecting on dozens (hundreds?) of hires over the last 20 years, I’m struck by how backward this is.

When I think about the truly great hires we’ve made, virtually every one of them had a very high W-factor. These are the folks who would run through walls, and whose desire was infectious. Conversely, I suspect that we can all recount failed hires where the C (and even the G) were very persuasive…but the W just wasn’t quite there. I’ll go one step further and say that a hire with a strong W can bridge gaps in their C and G (“where there is a will, there is a way”); but the converse simply isn’t true. Precisely why someone “wants it” is irrelevant, and the W can come from a wide range of circumstances; but it absolutely needs to exist.

To paraphrase the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want; but hiring “want it” will definitely help get what you need.

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