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A Lesson From The Wardrobe!

When evaluating candidates for a promotion to a higher role, we sometimes get tempted by potential – and downplay performance. Big mistake

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It’s become a bit of a ritual now. A once-in-a-couple-of-years kind of thing. My wife and I get into spring-cleaning mode and get down to emptying out stuff we don’t need from our wardrobes.

The intent is noble. It allows us to give away clothes we don’t need to people who might delight in wearing them. But the outcomes I’ve discovered are very different for my wife and for me. Something interesting seems to happen, every time.

I have a lot of fun. I find a pink shirt I had bought with great excitement but have never worn. I resolve I must wear it sometime soon – it looks so cool! I chance upon a pair of corduroy jeans – an old favourite - and wonder how it had gone missing for the past year!

I discover a shirt that was a gift, the tags still intact. It’s a size too small, has always been, but I tell myself that my new-found love for the gym should ensure I fit into that shirt. Soon. And this seems to go on for a while, with the result that at the end of the exercise, I find I haven’t really done a good job of throwing out stuff I don’t need!

My wife goes about it very differently. Aside from the special silk sarees and some once-in- a- lifetime clothes that remain secure, she attacks the rest of  her wardrobe with a simple question: Have I worn it in the last twelve months? If the answer is yes, it stays. If the answer is no, it goes. Simple.

Her logic is straight forward. If she hasn’t worn it in the past year – she doesn’t really need it. End result? The wife seems to achieve her objective and gets rid of clothes she doesn’t need. While I find a few more clothes I haven’t worn – but must wear in the future.

As I thought of the difference in our respective approaches, it struck me that maybe there is a lesson in it for us all. The right question to ask in many situations in life is not ‘What will you do?’ It is ‘What did you do?’

The right way to clean the cupboard is to ask, ‘Have I worn it in the last 12 months?’ And not, ‘Will I wear it in the next 12 months?’. Intent is a funny thing. It’s enticing. It tricks us.  Actions are the real deal.

So next time you are interviewing a candidate for a role, avoid asking questions of the “What would you do?” variety. Ask “What did you do?” type of questions. Actions are a far better indicator of character than intent.

When evaluating candidates for a promotion to a higher role, we sometimes get tempted by potential – and downplay performance. Big mistake.

We end up promoting people who say all the right things. And then wonder why the promotion didn’t quite work out as planned!

As a leader, you are probably very good at articulating your vision and strategy for the business. But even as you look at the road ahead and go from one townhall to the next sharing all that you plan to do in the next five years, good idea to ask yourself: what have I done in the last month to make that vision come true?
Actions trump intent. Always.

Time then for me to go back to my wardrobe for a second shot at spring-cleaning!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Magazine 23 June 2018 wardrobe

Prakash Iyer

Iyer is an author, speaker and leadership coach , and former MD of Kimberly Clark Lever

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