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Beware of the Eigthy-Percenters

Can you put your finger on the traits that make a new hire exceptional versus merely competent?

We’ve talked about an “ownership mentality” here before, and also “I’m on it” people. We came upon a new measure this week: The eighty-percenters.

It was a woman on House Hunters that coined the term. She blamed her husband of being an “eighty-percenter.” Meaning, he’ll take something 80% of the way there, but then leave it unresolved.

Isn’t that an intensely biting thing to say on national TV?! (And probably a separate post about task masters you can never please). Nevertheless, it brought a smile to my face. She just called out and named one of my biggest peeves – the “I did most of it” effort. Enough to avoid being blamed for inaction, but insultingly incomplete.

You know exactly what we’re talking about. Our professional and personal lives are rife with 80% examples, e.g. Email drafted but not sent because it requires your review, dishes left on the counter close to the dishwasher.

The truth is, lots of people are eighty-percenters. They’ll fulfill most of the job requirements, but whether from laziness or under-confidence, fall short of the mark. Then the 20% is left on your plate to wrap up. Which 20%? Good question. That’s what makes these people such bummer hires. You spend a lot of time auditing their work, uncovering and resolving holes.

What can we do? How can we avoid hiring eighty-percenters?

Hold out for those that give 110%. You know when you’re in their midst. They rise above the details and excuses of why something can’t be completed. They outline a plan of action. The not only resolve things, but go on to anticipate what’s needed next. They’re the of people – they respond with exactly what you need, plus some related stuff that would be good to have too.

There’s the case for not rushing into a hire that seems “pretty OK.” The 110% people, though considerably rarer, are 30% more effective than the eighty-percenters. Think about it: Three eighty-percenters provide little more benefit than two 110%. In addition to being more expensive and inefficient, it’s painful to manage that much incompetence.

Striving for 110% is not just for hiring purposes either. It can dramatically improve your job search and career development.  Think of the change of perception you get with that last 20 or 30%. You become a standout.

Have the confidence to drive all the way to your destination. Then get out and run another mile. People will notice.

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