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Life Lessons

The World Cup’s Lesson on Hiring

“Nothing,” said Hugh Mackay, “is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.”
Mackay, a psychologist and sociologist, could well have been speaking about the 2018 World Cup. The games, like all soccer, were messy, with highs and lows, imperfect players and uncertain outcomes — especially the match that produced the now immortal call “Iceland beats Argentina 1-1.”
But amid the usual messiness, one pattern emerged this year: An unusually high percentage of the goals were scored not in the complex back and forth of the matches, but in set pieces. “A set piece,” explains this Washington Post article, “occurs any time there is a restart of play from a foul or the ball going out of play.”
In other words, more and more goals were scored not within the stew of random play, but in ordered situations where one club had control of the ball and the placement of its players.
“Set pieces are easy to practice and hard to defend,” said one member of the soccer world.
Set pieces carry a powerful lesson for talent seekers: sports teams, college admissions officers, employers. Life is messy. Outcomes are uncertain. So you can gain an advantage — sometimes a decisive one — by controlling what you can. How does this familiar advice apply to the world of hiring? What about hiring can you control?
1. The interview. You learn a great deal if you know the right questions to ask and the right visual cues to study.
2. Your principles. What do you and your organization believe? What is your organizational philosophy? What kind of person do you want to attract and keep?
3. Your personnel development structure. What happens to people when they come into your organization? Is the team culture one that allows growth? Is there a freedom to take chances? When mentors, high standards, clear principles and role models are in place, a hidden gem begins to shine.
Just like the World Cup teams, you can achieve success by understanding what you can control, and getting good at it.


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