Monday, August 15, 2016

What Michael Phelps Can Teach Estates

Don't lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations.  - Ralph Marston

Michael Phelps, if he were so inclined, would not be able to get a job scrubbing toilets on a private estate. He would be branded as irresponsible, a safety risk, and someone the agency would not want anywhere near their clients' children. For sure, he would never get past the ominous "Federal background check."

That's because in domestic service, as in many industries, the candidates who get jobs are often not promoted to estate employers for their current and future abilities to perform a job to a high standard, yet more so are promoted on their ability for having avoided gotten caught during a moment of poor judgement. 

Is passion for actual, demonstrated performance
the criteria when staffing your estate?  

Or simply never having gotten into trouble?
Seeing last weeks spectacular performance from Phelps, as he earned his 28th Olympic medal, it reminded me of a posting some time ago where I highlighted the story of General Ulysses S. Grant, someone else with a smudgy background if there ever was one, a high performer who was the turning point to the Civil War upon his appointment by President Lincoln, having been hired for that job not because he'd been flying under the radar his whole life, but because he could actually do the job needed and was passionate, more so than any other General at that time, about doing his job to the standard required by Lincoln. About actually succeeding at what he was being hired to do, period.

Reprinted from within the posting, here is my own personal story about when someone once placed me into a job for the wrong reasons, and it all went quite horribly wrong:

I recall being placed, some years ago, to manage the daily details of a fairly significant property. I'd flown across the country and smoothly sailed through the multiple-level interview process, simply because, well, with my astonishingly squeaky clean background, no one could find any reason for me to be excluded (see above list). My strength?  Quite simply, I knew where the shrimp fork was to be placed. It was, incredulously, the only real question anyone had asked me during my candidacy. And embarrassing to admit, it was, at the time, just about the only thing I had any knowledge of, yet the clients were just so happy I'd never been arrested for grand theft auto, there didn’t seem to be much interest in continuing with additional inquiry, for things like, well, for instance, um, did I know how to manage people?

The assignment, surprising everyone including myself at that time, turned out to be a
spectacular train wreck withing just a few weeks, as the real strengths needed for that particular position were exactly those most lacking in my abilities at that time, none of which were relevant to the list of potholes which had been used by the agent and family as the exclusion criteria.

Many estates have suffered the same, painful lack of performance with their new hires: selecting candidates based purely on their absence of weaknesses, yet not their presence of strengths. What is the lesson? Perhaps a lack of weaknesses is not as valuable as having relevant strengths. Perhaps a candidate's strengths deserve a closer look.

Imagine if Michael Phelps' coach and sponsors had rejected his interest in returning to swimming? But instead, they all supported him as he took full responsibility for his past errors - and as he sought the professional help needed to understand how he could heal his painful past and get on with his bright future; reestablishing his training routine of swimming laps and lifting weights several hours per day and seven days per week, honing his skills and performing to the standard both he and the entire world would not only expect of him, yet would also require of him. 

And thus, would be rewarded last week, as the most decorated Olympian of all time.


Perhaps those skilled domestic staff candidates who've had a lapse of judgment in the past are comprised of more than only those incidents which now define and damn them? Perhaps they have real talent, as well? If yes, then one perhaps wouldn't know, given how quickly the resumes of some of the best domestic workers are tossed away into the trash can by those looking for "only the best" candidates for their clients (I'm really dating myself here - trash can - um, omg, I meant to say 'their online applications with attached resumes are deleted with one click').

Maybe Ulysses S. Grant is a bit too far in our past and frankly just not cool enough (or hot enough) for
Could a person's team player skills be more
noteworthy than their past personal issues? 
 inspiring today's workforce, but I'm betting that the Michael Phelps story will be with us both now and for a very long time to come.

Maybe a high passion and ability for top performance in ones' chosen craft, and not simply the crafty art of having never gotten caught, deserves a second look when staffing our estates?

I think so.

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