The It Factor

Anita Shea had just announced her retirement as the founder and CEO of one of the most successful medical supply companies in the country. Her COO, Victoria Hyde, was named as her successor. Anita had agreed to do an interview for one of the leading business blogs. The interviewer, Maxie O’Donnell, had decided to focus the interview on the transition since that’s where shareholders and investors had concerns.

M.O. –   First of all, congratulations on your retirement!

A.S. –     I’d rather not think of what I’m doing as a retirement. I’m just repurposing my career.

M.O. –   Well best of luck! I’d like to focus on the transition from your COO becoming your CEO. Can you give me your thinking on the transition?

A.S. –     Sure. Let’s start at the beginning. We were a young company and there were only five of us when we were interviewing for a person who could wear a number of hats. I let the others search for candidates. Victoria was one of those.

M.O. –   Given her success, she must have been everyone’s top choice?

A.S. –     Actually, I was the only one who wanted to hire her. The others wanted a candidate with better credentials. You know, school experience, gravitas, etc.

M.O. –   I’m intrigued, what stood out to you about Victoria?

A.S. –     When I’m looking at potential hires, I don’t look at their resume ahead of time. When I sit down to talk to them, I only ask them one question.

M.O. –   I’m hooked. What was the question?

A.S. –     I ask them what questions they want to ask me.

M.O. –   What does that tell you?

A.S. –     Well most of the so-called prestigious candidates asked about things like salary, advancement opportunities, and business goals. I think of those as “What’s in it for me?” questions.

M.O. –   What was Victoria’s question? Do you recall?

A.S. –     Yes, I remember it very well. She asked me about my values. From there, we had a genuine discussion where I was able to share my deepest thoughts about the company, what I wanted to achieve in life, and my hopes for the future of the company.

M.O. –   But how did the conversation let you know she was the one?

A.S. –     I could tell a lot about her from the questions she asked, how she listened, and the reflection that led to the next question. In today’s language, you would call that her mindset. I’ve always thought of it as the “It Factor”. The “It Factor” is impossible to define, but it’s just something you know when you see it.

M.O. –   But weren’t you taking a chance that she wouldn’t have the skills you need?

A.S. –     Think of an iceberg. The skills are the part of the iceberg that’s visible. The intangibles are under the surface. The “It Factor” are those things that aren’t visible but are essential. The skills can be easily taught and learned. The intangibles are much harder to develop.

M.O. –   I must say, this interview has gone in a much different direction that I expected. One more question. What is going to become your repurposed career?

A.S. –     Glad you asked. I’m embarking on a program to start the development of the “It Factor” in underprivileged children. I had a lot of opportunities to do very well-paying business seminars, but that’s just not my calling. I won’t live long enough to know the results of my new career, but purpose is what drives me.

M.O. –   Thanks so much for a wonderful and insightful interview.

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“Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.” – Omar Bradley (Five Star General)

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