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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

The Hard Truth of Hiring

Five areas of focus to build the right team


“We have great people here – but you have a different level on your team. Everyone truly cares about our success.” 


This was said to me years ago with respect to the team I built at a previous employer, and, to be candid, it was one of the most meaningful compliments I’ve ever received. It’s especially significant when finding and retaining talented team members is almost as stressful as figuring out what to order off the massive menu at The Cheesecake Factory before the waiter returns for a fifth time….almost.


Hiring is one of the most arduous aspects of management, and almost every single executive I know loathes the process: the uninspired resumes, the unqualified applicants, the lackluster interviews that end before they’ve begun, and the canned answers to interview questions are just a few that come to mind. It’s a process that is painful at best and, at worst, can cripple an organization for years – both financially and culturally.


While the hiring process can be agonizing, it’s the only way an organization can grow, stay true to its soul, and remain consistently successful.


It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.


Just like in any industry, the competition to hire the most talented, capable, and forward-thinking people is onerous in the world of branded merchandise and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The people who work in day-to-day customer-facing positions have far more impact on whether an organization succeeds than any new product or decoration method.


In the team sport of consistently creating surprise and delight for clients, each team member must possess five core emotional skills:


  1. Integrity – this is the foundation of any successful employee/employer relationship and where the intrinsic inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and exceptional judgment must be present

  2. Optimistic Compassion – does the candidate display genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full?

  3. Curiosity – this is far different than simple intelligence and where the candidate demonstrates an insatiable desire to learn for the sake of learning.

  4. Work Ethic – will the candidate consistently complete assignments as well as they can realistically be done and embrace the grind that goes along with it?

  5. Empathy – candidates must be aware of not only what the clients experience but also how their own behavior in the office impacts others.


Why is it important to focus on the emotional skills of every applicant rather than the technical skills of doing the actual job? When you look at the five core emotional skills necessary to create an outstanding team, the overarching theme is “care.” Over time, almost every technical aspect of a job can be taught: how to write an order, correctly using the CRM, how the decoration is applied to a product, etc. However, care can’t be taught: people either do or don’t.


Building an exceptional team – one that has the core emotional skills that enable them to engage clients in ways that establish trust and loyalty – is critical to the long-term success of any organization. The key is creating a team where the client base can identify a sense of cohesion in how they feel and experience their overall purchasing journey with your business. The only way to accomplish this is to focus on the emotional skills of applicants, not the technical ones.

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