Identifying results-getters

Culture  Leadership
26 March, 2018

Assess, develop and hire for “results intelligence” - the ability to get things done

It is increasingly important for us to become more agile to deal with the uncertain and volatile environment. Acting nimbly and consistently delivering results are key elements of agility.

In general, our team members have a strong bias for action and a “doer” mentality. However, have you struggled with or worked with team members who just can’t seem to get things done?  They may be deeply talented, intelligent, respectful, flexible, and overall a good fit in the organisation – in fact, on the surface of it, they probably have all the qualities you would typically look for! But, while they can function well enough within the narrow parameters of their own role, they simply don’t have the ability to drive a big project across the finish line or transform a game-changing idea into reality.

That’s because getting things done is an art in itself, one that calls for a specific type of personality and skillset. Some of the required traits actually fly in the face of conventional hiring wisdom, which is why you need to be intentional about identifying, recruiting and nurturing result-getters. Those who are adept at making things happen play a pivotal role in seizing opportunities and innovating in a timely, effective manner. In today’s ecosystem, with change occurring at a breakneck speed and complexity growing by leaps and bounds, such people are critical to an organisation’s success – and, often, even its survival.

So, this week, my message focuses on how to identify people who can get things done, by assessing their ‘results intelligence’. In his insightful article, Results Intelligence: Identifying People Who Get Things Done, Dean T. Stamoulis, who leads the Center for Leadership Insight at Russell Reynolds Associates, explains the concept of results intelligence (RI):

RI is different from classic intelligence, or how much someone knows. Instead, it’s the ability to beat the right path to the finish line, regardless of obstacles that may emerge. People with high levels of RI can envision ways to accomplish large, complex goals that are not obvious to others, and they stick with them past the point when others would quit.

An excellent example of this kind of personality is Elon Musk, who has spearheaded four category-defining companies (including Tesla and SpaceX) in a matter of two decades. Musk’s business tactics are the stuff of legend. The Q2 letter to Tesla shareholders last year reflected his intense belief in future success: ‘We are so confident in the superior durability of our Solar Roof tiles that we offer the best warranty in the roofing industry – the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.’ Musk is also known for his tough and sometimes unpopular decisions, including sacking the struggling Tesla CEO, Martin Eberhard (who also happened to be a co-founder), as well as aggressively hiring top talent from close competitors.

People like Musk have the ability to take big risks tempered by hard-nosed pragmatism – their contribution makes it possible for businesses to innovate efficiently and adapt quickly. With a laser-like focus on executing their vision, these result-getters score high on what Stamoulis describes as ‘loud traits’ – being disruptive, taking chances and spurring action, but also some of the quiet ones, such as pragmatism.

However, this doesn’t mean they score low on emotional intelligence (EI). As Stamoulis explains:

In the most effective executives, RI and EI balance each other out. If someone is too focused on results, without paying attention to how they make people feel, morale will suffer. Conversely, if someone is too focused on emotions, without thinking about results, productivity will suffer. Together, RI and EI can help leaders make progress without alienating those around them.

Here are the top five traits found amongst result-getters, as identified by Stamoulis and his team:

1. Start at the finish

People with high results intelligence have a crystal-clear vision of the end goal, which they use as a launchpad for precise planning. They work in reverse to come up with the necessary steps and timelines, and make it a priority to stay on track through regular reviews.

2. Get the right resources

No matter what resources are required – people, equipment, data, funding – result-getters display an iron determination to procure them. You know that colleague who just doesn’t give up and somehow finds a way to get what they need for every project? That’s results intelligence at work.

3. Be flexible with rules

People who get things done have a high awareness of rules and procedures. However, they don’t always follow them to the letter; instead, they look for shortcuts and loopholes when appropriate. For instance, there may be an opportunity that needs to be seized right away – which would mean cutting short the typically long decision-making process.

4. Forget about flattery

Result-getters are all about efficiency. Whether it’s calling a meeting, making a decision or running a project, they involve people who are important to the process and bring value to the table. They don’t have a problem leaving out or replacing those who are irrelevant, even if it ruffles a few feathers.

5. Don’t make excuses

With exacting standards and a focus on results, people who get things done don’t accept justifications and excuses – not even from themselves. They walk the talk, and make it clear that success is not optional. If there is a roadblock, they find a way around it. 

In an interview setting, Stamoulis suggests asking the following questions to assess whether the candidate has high results intelligence. Listen closely to the answers to identify the green and red flags.

1. Where do you begin when developing an action plan to achieve a specific goal?

Green flags: big picture thinking, clear about end goals, backward planning, precise assessment of resources

Red flags: very general approach, too much flexibility, lack of clarity regarding end state, uncertain prioritisation

2. How do you keep track of initiatives in your area of responsibility?

Green flags: project management approach, precise planning including timelines and accountability, reviews are a priority

Red flags: disorganised approach regarding roles and steps, staying on track is not a priority

3. Is it acceptable to you to break rules or defy common industry practices? Why or why not?

Green flags: respects procedure but looks for creative ways to overcome problems, sees rules as an impediment in certain situations

Red flags: black and white approach to rules and regulations, most comfortable with a rule book, looks to how things were done in the past for direction

4. How do you decide which people to involve in a project or initiative?

Green flags: efficiency mindset, willing to cut through bureaucracy, not overly preoccupied with consensus building, prefers to involve only those who are relevant

Red flags: excessively inclusive, extremely concerned about upsetting or offending people, little emphasis on scope

5. Tell me about a time when you were unsuccessful in reaching a goal.

Green flags: does not like failure, believes there is always another way to succeed

Red flags: justifies failure excessively, blames other people or the situation

High results intelligence is also revealed through prior accomplishments. To determine if a person is good at getting things done, look at the things they’ve gotten done in the past. Results-getters have a strong track record of achievements and of going above and beyond the immediate scope of their job. They are generally not shy, so give them an opening to share stories that demonstrate their success. Have they initiated any new projects, based on ideas they either came up with or spotted? What is their greatest accomplishment till date? Are they involved with any industry organisations or side projects? (They usually are.)

Those who are good at getting things done also tend to emphasise their individual abilities and use lots of action words. In conversations as well as resumes, look out for the use of words such as ‘produce’, ‘achieve’, ‘create’, ‘drive’ and ‘lead’. Passive language and terms like ‘assist’ and ‘help’ indicate a different type of personality – possibly a great team player, but likely not someone who can drive and execute big, game-changing ideas.

Every team needs a few results-getters on board, as does the organisation as a whole. Their role is crucial to innovating successfully and keeping pace with a rapidly changing world. People who get things done make it possible for us to take important risks, pole-vault over obstacles and execute ambitious plans.

As leaders, therefore, we must make it a priority to identify, develop and hire for results intelligence.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.


  • Meetu Grover says:

    Excellent precise article… The bucket of red flag and green flag traits is quite distinctive.
    I like the name – Results Intelligence!


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