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In just about any job interview, managers look at applicants for such things as skills and proficiencies, intelligence level, their ability to listen and learn, and a variety of other attributes. One aspect they are particularly interested in is the intuitiveness of the person which is difficult to quantify and substantiate. Just about all managers hope the new worker possesses this important "sixth sense" which helps to spot problems before they occur and take corrective action. One of the best icons for intuitiveness was Corporal Radar O'Reilly of M.A.S.H. fame, who would process paperwork and take care of the camp's business before the Colonel could issue the orders. As efficient as Radar was, he was the exception as opposed to the rule in the camp. The same is true in business.
Over the years I have met several Radar O'Reilly-types in the I.T. industry, most assuming clerical roles. In the past, they may have been secretaries, librarians, project administrators, or even systems analysts. The point is, they weren't high on the totem pole, yet everyone in the department was acutely aware of their ability to overcome administrative obstacles, particularly the boss who understood the employee's value and developed a dependence on it. It's not that such employees possess any special knowledge, as much as they know how to conquer problems. In the process, they make themselves invaluable to the department, thereby guaranteeing job security.
From my perspective, there are three attributes that make up such a person:
1. They know their systems inside and out. Such insight, coupled with experience gives them the confidence they need to properly take action. They have either made all of the mistakes, and suffered the consequences from them, or are at least cognizant of the ramifications for making such mistakes.
2. They have an innate desire to please which is what motivates them. It seems they are trying to prove something to someone, particularly a superior, that they know how to do their job and make it look effortless.
3. They possess an empathy for human needs. Such people understand what it means to be frustrated by a problem and, as a result, they are quick to respond to people to either ease their pain or make them feel more comfortable. Bottom-line, they are caring people who are willing to extend a helping hand.
Years ago, when we were starting our company in Cincinnati, we needed to make a sales presentation to a company in Louisville. At the time, we used transparencies and needed a portable overhead transparency projector to take with us. Anticipating the need, we went through normal channels to order a 3M projector two weeks before the presentation. The sales rep assured us he could deliver it to us with plenty of time to spare. Days came and went until we were just two days before the presentation and we still had not received the projector. Our sales rep had fumbled the order and we were at a loss as to what to do. In desperation, we called the President of 3M in Minneapolis. His secretary answered the phone and explained the president was busy; was there something she could help us with? We explained our dilemma to which she replied, "Oh dear, I understand your problem, please leave it to me."
The very next morning, just 24 hours before our presentation in Louisville, a delivery truck arrived with our precious projector. Frankly, we were overwhelmed how efficiently the secretary had solved our problem, which she made look simple. Being grateful, we wrote a letter to the president of 3M, thanking his secretary for solving our problem and complimented her on the professional manner in which she solved the problem. Realizing the secretary was probably charged with opening and organizing the president's mail, we can only assume the letter ended up at the top of his stack.
It's a special sort of person who possesses intuitiveness and, frankly, I'm not quite sure how to determine this during a job interview. Quite often, intuitiveness is nothing more than experience in disguise, but I tend to believe it goes beyond this and requires some specific human related factors such as empathy and a desire to please. Whatever it is, such people are to be cherished as they make life easier for the rest of us. It would be a big mistake to take such people for granted. In fact, you should probably do as we did with the 3M secretary, thank them.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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