When Making a Hire Decision, Attitude is More Important Than IQ
(n) A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.
People’s predisposed thoughts and feelings are the foundational factor in determining the outcomes of every human interaction (behavior). IQ is also important, and more so at the end stage of interactions, as it allows people to analyze situations and make calculated decisions. Workplace behaviors such as collaboration, task completion, and communication are all critical for high performance and the achievement of strategic outcomes in an organization.
Operational excellence in high-growth companies is about negotiating intrinsic social contracts and hierarchies in the most efficient, clear-minded way in order to get stuff done. Just as happiness depends on outlook, not material things, organizational success depends on employee attitude—not IQ.
Researchers at Stanford University found that individuals who identify strongly with external attributes like IQ and “being smart” are less engaged with the learning process. They are more likely to fall into destructive behaviors that mask their true intelligence and undermine the development of their true potential, to the organization’s detriment.
The researchers found that starting from childhood, people often fall into two outlooks on intelligence: a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” Those with fixed intelligence think that success is based upon fixed traits—they believe that they are either born smart or flawed, and their entire lives are defined by a set amount of intelligence and capability.
Often, people who are told they are “smart” hide behind the praise. They become fixated on maintaining their smart status at all costs, even if it means rejecting new challenges for fear of failure, or not wanting to seem dumb. In this limiting mindset, inner life becomes a monologue of comparison that filters out useful, realistic criticism.
On the other hand, those with a growth mindset know that excellent performance depends upon perseverance, hard work, and learning from failure. For those with a growth mindset, life is ripe with opportunities and there is no “failure”— only challenges to overcome on the path to mastery.
How do people become one way or the other? Noted author Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, discovered the “fixed” and “growth” mindsets while studying the behavior of schoolkids in the early 2000s.
She gave two groups of children an easy puzzle or test to solve. Both groups solved the puzzle, but the first group was told they succeeded because they were smart (a fixed trait). The second group was told they succeeded because they worked hard (a growth-oriented trait). Guess which group gave up when the test got tougher? The fixed group, who felt they would lose their “smart” status by failing at a more difficult puzzle. On the other hand, the growth group enjoyed the new challenge.
Dweck’s groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, reveals that emphasis on smarts or effort have profound effects on long-term adult potential. People who develop fixed mindsets prefer tasks they already do well and avoid situations in which they may make mistakes. This leads to aversion to learning and risk-taking—deadly in today’s quickly changing world. Even worse, it compromises morals: the fixed mindset group in Dweck’s research were more likely to lie about their test results to protect their reputation.
In her book, Dweck writes that a fixed mindset is insecure: it is like “always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens.” That’s no way to live—or to live with this trait in an employee, even one who is perfect on paper.
Thankfully, individuals can change their mindsets. Dweck had tremendously positive results when she put fixed mindset students, who thought they had limited potential and suffered social and emotional trouble, on an 8-week study skills program that emphasized the brain as a trainable muscle. Many students who thought they could never succeed learned to face and even love solving challenges.
Dweck’s theory of education is now taught across multiple disciplines, including sports, in which confidence and rebounding from a break in concentration can mean a close win.
For company leaders, recognizing growth attitudes means celebrating employees for their enthusiasm about solving challenges and curiosity about working, not their alma mater. To hire these kinds of people, ask potential hires about their views on personal and professional growth, both great topics of conversation during interviews. Selecting new colleagues based on how they grew from failures in their past experience is golden wisdom on the topic of team-building.
For everyone else, entering a growth mindset means taking a deep inquiry into the nature of our beliefs about self.
Do you believe that your character, intelligence, and creative abilities are inborn attitudes? Or do you dream of bettering yourself through challenges, realizing that your potential is, while not limitless, unknowable? A shift in mental attitude can impact the way you go about your daily tasks, which ultimately leads to the efforts that shape your success.
Choosing the candidate that has a 20 point higher IQ is isolated to that one person. The benefit of choosing the person that has the better attitude magnifies the enthusiasm, flexibility, and adaptation of the entire team. We’re all looking to conquer the world with what we are doing. We need people who want to achieve success for themselves and who can help us do it as a team. A winning attitude is infectious and magnifies teamwork. And teamwork wins championships.