Being Conscientious

It was the most ambitious mission to space ever attempted. With a ten-year planning horizon, the selection of the team to be at the core of the mission was a top priority. Colonel Rebecca Haskins was in charge of the selection process. She was a five-time traveler to space.

She decided to use a phased evaluation process with each phase focusing on one attribute. The first attribute chosen was conscientiousness, since it was so critical that every team member be totally committed to the mission. Colonel Haskins decided to post a short video describing what candidates needed to prepare for the selection process.

“I want each of you to prepare a video with a collection of stories that demonstrate how conscientious you have been in your career. Here are the stories I want you to tell.”

“First, tell me a story about a goal you set for yourself and what you did to achieve it.” What Colonel Haskins was looking for was goals that were out of the candidate’s confidence zone, what they did to achieve the goals, and how they measured their progress in achieving the goal. The video continued.

“Second, I want you to tell me how you make decisions.” What the Colonel was looking for was how thorough the candidates evaluated their decisions, both big ones and smaller ones. She especially was looking for consistency in the approach used because the mission could not have poor decisions no matter how consequential they may seem. The video continued.

“Third, I want you to tell me your approach to fulfilling the obligations expected of you.” What the Colonel was looking for was how the candidates managed their obligations. She was looking for both the systems they used as well as their sense of commitment. The video continued.

“Fourth, tell me how you organize your life.” The Colonel was looking for where they focused their answer, especially whether they included both professional and personal examples in their response. She wanted to know how they thought about organization. The video continued.

“Fifth, tell me about how your self-discipline has changed as you have gotten older. What do you do now that you didn’t used to do?” Colonel Haskins was looking for responses that showed continuing thinking about their discipline and their continued improvement.

“Finally, I want you to tell me a story of how you convinced your colleagues to accept your ideas when they didn’t initially believe in them.” What the Colonel was looking for was self-assurance without being overly confident. How did they convince themselves they were right?

One of the top five personality traits relates to a spectrum from conscientious to spontaneous. Current trends tend to celebrate the spontaneous, but reality is that most organizations need a talent pool that is much more conscientious than spontaneous.

People who are conscientious display these qualities:

  • Achievement focus
  • Cautiousness
  • Duty Oriented
  • Organized
  • Self-Discipline
  • Self-Assurance

While new ideas might come from the spontaneous, those ideas may never have any impact without those who are conscientious.

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“There is a higher court than the courts of justice and that is the court of conscience.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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