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Hard Chargers are Falling from the Sky... Learn How to Catch and Keep Them.

Envision looking out the open door of an airplane for the first SOLO skydive of your life: Hair blowing in every direction; heart pounding; eyes watering from the cold, fresh air at 14000 feet. You excitedly and carefully grab the door pane while reciting each step you learned in class the week before…. “right hand, right foot, left hand, left foot, check inside instructor, check outside instructor, look at the prop, up, down, arch… One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand.”

And just like that, you’re flying. One of the most exhilarating moments you could possibly imagine. Ultimate thrill.

At 6000 feet you pull your chute. You count to five and check for malfunctions…. OH NO: major malfunction! You’re worst nightmare is suddenly your reality and you’ve only got ten seconds before decision-making time runs out.

Certain death or ultimate thrill?

Now envision you are the product manager for a new software program that goes live tomorrow morning for the largest client in your entire career. You've reached ultimate career thrill: the largest account in the company and a team of your own to bring it all together.

One of your developers comes to you in a panic the night before because he found a bug in one of the first lines of code that will impact each new build out in the future. What’s your next move?

Certain death or ultimate thrill?

So, how do you know which employees will crumble under pressure and which ones will face their career challenges head-on? You might consider looking at who is pushing their limits, both personally and professionally. There are four different flow personality types: the deep thinker, the flow goer, the crowd pleaser, and the hard charger. While different roles throughout your organization may require specific flow personality types the hard chargers will push your organization farther, faster. If you're trying to fill positions for business development, sales, and leadership your hard chargers are a natural fit.

For those of you who have not heard of the "flow state," it feels like being in the zone. It's the moment when a person is faced with a challenge that requires using all of their talent, skills, knowledge, and training in order to successfully complete it. This creates total focus and engagement. Research has shown that people are up to 500% more productive when they operate in flow. An individual's skills, adaptability, and learning speed determines what level of intensity they will reach flow.

According to the Flow Genome Project, you're a hard charger if "You’re a focused go-getter. You thrive in intense situations, both personally and professionally. 'Run of the mill' experiences are wastes of your time. You seek out challenges. You lead a high-impact lifestyle. When you set out to learn a new skill, you look for training from the best and brightest in that field. If such training is not available, you hunker down and focus until you’ve figured it out yourself. Either way, 'slow and steady' progress is not what you’re after. The middle of the pack is not where you belong."

Hard chargers are the lawyers who skydive on weekends. The team leader who spends her happy hour training to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. The business owners who race cars on the track. The sales guy who rides his mountain bike before work.

Now that you know how hard chargers operate and why you need them in your talent pool, let's talk about how to catch and keep them. With hundreds or thousands of resumes pouring in for each position it can be daunting to sort through the lists of skills and talents. It's also important to note that while a candidate may include a skill on his or her resume, you'll want to measure the amount of time or effort they've spent putting it into practice if it's crucial to the position they're applying for.

  1. Don't be afraid to dive deep and ask what their hobbies are and how often they take part in them. Ask them to tell stories about struggles or accomplishments they've had while learning their hobbies to measure their level of commitment and engagement. If a person isn't committed to understanding something they love, chances are they aren't going to be committed to understanding your business either.

  2. Challenge them to think on their feet by presenting a recent business problem they would likely encounter or challenges that your clients face. Ask them to come up with one or two solutions that are relevant or "thinking outside the box." This gives you a chance to see how they operate under pressure and time constraints. While their answer may "wow" you; it's not the answer that you're paying attention to. What is important is their ability to remain positive and calm while they problem solve.

  3. Provide new challenges and growth. While some candidates will accept an offer for a slight pay increase or more time off; hard chargers look for opportunities that will push them outside of their comfort zone.

Hard chargers thrive on risk and complexity. In the corporate world there are just as many social risks as there are physical risks in extreme sports. Did you know that our brain can't tell the difference between physical risk (like skydiving) and social risk (like pitching a new idea to your executive team)? It produces the same neurochemicals that scare the living daylights out of some people while igniting a fire and passion in others. Hard chargers will need continual growth and opportunities to solve new challenges if you want them to stick around your company longer than a few years.

For current employees who may be struggling in their position; start using this technique during their reviews. You may find that you've placed a hard charger in a repetitive role where they would excel at something more challenging or risky like sales. On the contrary, you may find that an employee who values job safety and specific instructions for success has been placed in a role that was too far outside of their comfort zone leading to mental paralysis.

If you've had success with hard chargers comment on this article and share what unique things you've done to attract and retain them.

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