Talent and Culture

December 4, 2012 by Wally Bock

My friend Greg had two children, Linda and Jason. They were very different.

Linda was a “people person” who was great at “going with the flow.” Jason was more “buttoned-down.”

Linda worked at Nordstrom and loved it. As far as she was concerned, Nordstrom’s was the best place in the world to work. So, when Jason was out of a job, she enthusiastically suggested he interview at Nordstrom.

Jason got the job, but he left before the end of his first month. Jason thought it was dumb that Nordstrom’s had only one rule: “Use your good judgment in all things.” He wanted more guidance. And he thought it was just not fair when he got sent home after arguing with a particularly difficult customer.

Jason was a good, hard worker, but the Nordstrom culture didn’t support him in the way he needed to be productive and happy. That would come later in another company. Meanwhile, Nordstrom’s was a perfect fit for Linda.

I remembered Linda and Jason last week when I read Eric Jackson’s piece in Forbes. It has the wonderful title: “Why Does Google Crave Elites for Their Management Team While Apple Eschews Them?

Jackson took a look at the management teams for Apple and Google. He goes into detail on education. Google goes for the elite. It works for them. Apple goes for something else. No surprise from a company founded by Steve Jobs who once noted that it was more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.

What’s it all mean? Jackson sums up his thoughts this way.

“I find it fascinating that two titans of tech can both succeed (to this point at least) with such a different view of what it means to be ‘talented.'”

It is fascinating, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Strong cultures cut both ways. They provide stimulation and support for some people, but they make things difficult for others. Talent is not generic.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Talent Management

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