There exists in the business environment a strong bias in personnel development towards education, experience, and professionalism. But in a world with high unemployment rates, large numbers of applicants for each job, and non-traditional students finishing or upgrading their degree, how does an individual stand out from the crowd? One word: personality.
Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” shook the foundations of the business world in the 1990’s by proclaiming that the change in paradigm from World War Two through the present was problematic and needed to be addressed by improving professionalism. This paradigm shift, however, could also be viewed as a cultural shift needing to be addressed in its own right. To completely strip the individual of that which makes them unique instead of embracing their differences, strengths and weaknesses can result in lower productivity, stagnation and lack of creativity in problem-solving and direction.
The mainstream bias in business can be summed up as technicality – your experience, education and professionalism combined. Though these things are important, they don’t necessarily make you memorable to an interviewer, supervisor or department head. In a world of 160-character news bits, five-second attention spans and reality television, personality is becoming the way to gain recognition and advancement.
Relying solely on a technicality and stripping your professional self of all personality is no longer a suitable tactic for advancement in today’s world. Indeed, an individual or business believed to be “too professional” may not gain the clientele that a more personality-based business might. The popularity of blogs and social media and its importance in modern marketing must be taken into account in a world where dry text and strictly business-related blogs do not get the recognition or readership that more personable and casual blogs do.
The 60-40 Concept embraces both sides of the business development coin, encouraging an individual to spend 60% of their developmental time and effort on personality and 40% in improving their technicality or skill-set. This allows the individual to speak knowledgeably to the business matters at hand as well as having enough personality to be remembered after the interview, improving the whole person rather than just their technical skills.
Technical skill improvement includes coursework in the nuts and bolts of a business: Microsoft Office certifications, accounting classes, computer training, marketing seminars, internet usage training, continuing education, etc. Though vital to daily operations, these types of skills on their own do not promote growth.
Personality development work includes public speaking, communications skills, self-confidence, business etiquette, negotiation skills, leadership training and similar areas. Another way to approach this is in terms of external skills (learning to better manipulate devices, programs, etc.) versus internal skills (improving the individual).
To thrive, a modern business must evolve and therefore requires modern management tools. The concept of 60-40 provides a valuable gauge to estimate how much time, energy and effort to spend in each area of personal development. As our world continues to change, new concepts like 60-40 provide the lens a business needs to view the new possibilities.
Back in 1995, when I started my career in Human Resource Management, I had the pleasure of working closely with and reporting directly to, Eric Burton, our PB CEO at that time. I learned a lot from Eric, and without him, I wouldn’t have reached where I am today.
Being young, eager to learn, ambitious and naïve all at the same time, there was no limit to the number of questions I had for Eric. On the other hand, Eric was a nice, professional and confident manager, always encouraging me to ask questions and giving me fair and honest answers.
I remember attending my first senior management meeting, which was mainly focusing on operations. At that time, I didn’t have much to contribute. Instead, I just listened and learned. During the discussion, I noticed that all the senior managers had more technical knowledge in their field than Eric, i.e. electrical, civil, etc; however, they all respected his views and decisions, and he always looked at issues from a perspective that they hadn’t considered.
After the meeting I asked him a question that seemed silly at the time. Yet, later on, it would turn out to be one of the most important questions in my life:
“Eric, how come those guys are technically stronger than you and yet you are their boss? Wouldn’t it be better to have a CEO who is technically stronger than everyone else?” Eric smiled at me and said:
“Tamer, you need 60% personality and 40% technical ability to make it in life.”
To be honest, I did not pay much attention to his answer at the time. However, years went by and I spent lots of time and effort improving my technical skills in Human Resource Management. I went to the UK and gained my full-time postgraduate diploma and Master’s degree, as well as lots of other qualifications, driven by a desire to be technically strong and, as I mentioned earlier, my eagerness to learn.
After the UK, I went to Morocco to help one of my previous employers in Kuwait develop their HR department there. Coming from the UK with the latest tools and techniques, I thought that nothing could stop me from developing any company, but guess what? I still encountered many challenges and obstacles. Some months later, I was walking with our VP, Nauman Sehgal, who is another successful and professional manager who I owe so much to on both a personal and professional level. I told Nauman that I was struggling to deal with the company’s politics, culture and environment, as it was totally different from their head office and I had no control over it. He turned to me and said:
“Tamer, if I can make it as a Non- Arab in one of the largest groups in the Middle East, I am sure a talent like you can make it.”
But again, being me, I wanted to prove to myself whether this was true or not. Is personality more important than technical ability? Is it really 60-40? Do I need to focus more on my style?
After that, I spent years reading about talent and talented people. I also spent time watching all my successful colleagues at the various international organisations I have worked for, as well as all the candidates I interviewed. I also used all the in-depth psychometric tools related to my field, and all the relative qualifications, in order to explore this concept – and again, guess what?
Eric was absolutely right. It’s personality that makes the difference in life. It’s who you are, what you say, how you say it, how you communicate, your ethics, your beliefs, how you build your case, how you think and how you market yourself.
“You need 60% personality and 40% technicality to make it in life.”
What a natural but powerful statement. Just to remind you, at the time I heard it, I did not really believe that this could ever be true; but, for some reason, it was stored in my mind and my heart too.
While it’s important not to neglect qualifications, experience and technical competencies for career development, this is not what I am focusing on in my statement. The Way Forward In 2003, when I had to choose my dissertation subject, I was inspired by one of the key people who I respect and think highly of: Stephen Taylor, my tutor, dissertation supervisor and one of the key writers in the HR world. He suggested that I should choose employer branding as the subject for my dissertation.
As Mr. Taylor himself said, my dissertation was the biggest dissertation ever in the history of Manchester Metropolitan University! I have to admit, I went too far. I was just so eager to learn about candidates’ perception of different organisations and what the main factors are when candidates decide which organisations to apply for. I was mainly focusing on postgraduate students as an example of talent. The findings were interesting and I have benefited greatly from all the people I talked to or interviewed.
I have worked in the HR field for quite some time now. Having been in a regional and global role for the past twenty five years and heavily involved in the recruitment and selection process at all levels, I have paid great attention while recruiting senior managers into key positions. I have noticed that the most technical managers, even when they are requested to measure and focus on the technical side of the candidates, still pay great attention to the candidate’s personality, attitude, personal life and career development. Usually their decision is influenced by the candidate’s personality as well as their technical competency.
It breaks my heart when a candidate comes to an interview and freezes, or fails to represent themselves properly or express their talent. They don’t know what can help them to get the job, what companies really look for. I remember what it was like when I first started my career. I used to hate interviews, deciding what to wear, what to say, how to act – but what was even worse was waiting for their call! Waiting and waiting, and then never knowing why they never called, why I wasn’t selected. Rarely would they ever give me feedback as they think that being nice is more important than being honest.
That is why I developed the 60-40.com concept. I have committed myself to helping all candidates to choose the right job, to present themselves the way they deserve and to develop their skills. Finally, I aim to provide each candidate with a fair judgment of their personality, ability, attitude, strengths and weaknesses in a structured, professional way using the latest approved scientific methods.
In 60-40 we donate a percentage of our fees to the community. We also offer free services for certain products and categories, and we run free training programs. Eric, Nauman and Stephen – Thank you for being great talents in my life; I will never forget the support and advice you have given me; finally, thank you for being you.
I believe that, in life, the people around us – wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, kids, family, friends, animals, and workmates – all inspire us, and they come for free, a free learning tool. So, go and learn and explore, but don’t forget to share what you have learned and help others.
Talents – Thanks for visiting my website and reading my story. I wish you a pleasant and successful journey with us.