In the spirit of our Mission (relentless improvement), I am always looking to find ways to grow and help others grow and improve. One of the reasons I also attend conferences and rub shoulders with giants, so to speak, is about my learning in order to improve "our learning.”
One of those giants I refer to is the Head of Human Resource for Linkedin (9,500 employees) named Pat Wadors. Pat's resume is pretty long and impressive, and in summary she was named among the 50 most powerful women in technology.
I was impressed with her passion to make people great. She had a different approach from the typical start up tech recruiting philosophies of finding the "gifted" and most intelligent talent to meet the demands of innovation of highly technical work. Instead, her philosophy is more about finding people where they are and developing them from there. She shared some information from Malcom Gladwell's book David and Goliath: 80% of the people say they are above average, but that is statistically impossible. If employers think they are only hiring already great employees, they are naive.
In reality great talent appearing at the front door of our organizations is not reality and therefore, it is imperative to develop and grow talent. In order to be competitive, companies have to create opportunities to take less than great talent and make their employees great.
Her leadership in human resources is built on her belief in the theory of expectations, and this in part is built on something she learned as a young student. She had shared how a teacher did not give up on her even though she had experienced frustration with reading at a young age. This teacher was relentless (does this word seem familiar?) in spending extra time to see her through obstacles in decoding, and she sent a clear message about how our expectations determine our growth and development. The same is true in leadership in a company as influential as Linkedin. She has taken on the philosophy "not to settle" until her company employees become great. Their employees "can" be great, and that adopted attitude and philosophy can create that competitive edge in her sphere of influence as a business leader.
It was interesting to hear also that employee strengths are not limited to or even prioritized toward intelligence. Virtues such as loyalty, steadfastness and honesty are valued higher in the hiring and development process more than the individuals being "fast learners." This perspective also required leadership to spend more time and provide patience with employees, but the message was clear on the worth of the outcomes. Spending time with people to give them voice and confidence were described as important factors in growing people. Her point was well taken in noting both high and low performers take a lot of time and attention for different reasons.
She emphasized our need to be empathetic with people and be crystal clear with expectations. She made a comment at the end of her conversation that caught my attention, (I had a chance to converse with her after her talk to clarify):
People change from either a catalyst due to some pain they have experienced in their life or they change because the opportunity presented by the change is so awesome. (Paraphrased). Her work is to help people leverage those motivators to become great people and employees.
I could not help but tie in her work with one of our core values: “See students as they could be; not as they are.” I love the message that student and adult performance is more about growing, nurturing, developing and empowering than any amount of talent that all of us may or may not bring to the table. This work is mission critical, and this provides hope for all of our kids.