How to Differentiate Great CX People from Good CX People

I interview a lot of CX candidates in my role as ACD at SapientNitro and in my previous roles at TBWA and Crayon, so I get to see all ends of the spectrum. I’m judging aptitude obviously, but I’m also reading people for signs of potential leadership and character. It’s how businesses grow & evolve.

Consumer Experience candidates are often judged on their meritocracy, because more often than not our influence is, and should be, invisible to a project. We’re not the front-men or women of the band (Design), we’re not the drummer keeping everything on track (Technology), we’re sort of the Bass playing turning OK tunes into full-blown melodies & symphonies, joining up all the parts and filling in the gaps.

SapientNitro is a company that takes great pride in developing leaders; and it is something I’m asked about often. So I wanted to share the questions I always ask myself when I’m looking at candidates to join the team:

1) Is the person self-aware?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We can all improve, and we should embrace cultures of continuous learning. But top talent cannot allow weak spots to be blind spots. We all need an accurate perspective of what we do well and where we need work. You can’t lead credibly without it.

I myself, amongst other things, am impetuous, hot-headed, not very ‘book smart’ just ‘aware smart’ and lose interest when the decision doesn’t go my way… Things I work on constantly to overcome.

2) Is the candidate committed to the company and can they drive change?

Be the change that you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi

Senior CX positions are tough jobs and we live in hyper-competitive times. Success requires real effort, and at the senior levels of a company like SapientNitro the ability to drive change distinguishes you. It’s not easy and you have to be stubborn; you have to be resilient. After all, every idea begins with a constituency of one. There’s probably one or two times a year that I turn to my teams and say, “we’re going to do it my way.” Do that too often and good people will leave. But if you never do it, nothing ever happens. Trust your instinct (and make sure you have the right instincts).

3) Is the candidate a “giver or a taker?”

Just as the best candidates need to go with their gut, they must also be responsive to those around them. They realize that open, respectful, transparent conflict is a hallmark of great companies. Top employees must also give back to the culture to make it meaningful and lasting. Build a WE not a ME organization. You have to inspire people. An idea or initiative may start with that constituency of one, but eventually you need buy-in from a company of many (about 10,000, in fact, at SapientNitro).

4) Is the candidate a critical thinker?

It is easy to follow the crowd and allow the status quo. It is also the way companies and organizations get in trouble. The very best CX’ers avoid “group think.” Instead, they look at challenges through different lenses and from different perspectives. They understand context and have a strategic sense of how to put things where they fit both within a project and in the world. As a matter of imperative, the top CX candidates I interview and work with know how to simplify. This might be the most important trait of our time. The very best practitioners cut through the complexity. Every decision drives speed and accountability. They get results.

5) Lastly, does the candidate have a dream for themselves and OUR company?

Good employees have passion. They have a vision. They think and dream big. They’re curious and interested.

CX candidates need excellent judgment and display calmness during crisis. I’m looking for loyalty, and a love of our work and craft.

I view my employees growth and development as integral to our companies culture and our future. We try to create global thinkers, people who can navigate the complexity of our times with clarity, courage and integrity.

What attributes do you look for in a top CX candidate, colleague and leader?

(Inspired by and adapted from an article I found by Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO at GE)

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