Hiring: Capacity – Character – Capability


Managing People

Never make someone a priority who makes you an option.


I’ll apologize now to all of you who are reminded of your age, however many of you will remember the Guns ‘n’ Roses, song ‘A Civil War. The year? 1990.

Apart from a great track, the opening moments include a piece of audio from the Paul Newman classic movie, “Cool Hand Luke”.

“What we have here, is failure to communicate. Some Men you just can’t reach”

For those of you who haven’t seen it, add it to the watch list on Netflix.

Winning in team sport, business or the military are all people businesses. This can be often forgotten in the fog of war and friction of battle.

In hiring people there are many ways to assess and profile, but it essentially returns to three things – capability, capacity and character.


With any hire the ability to do ones job is naturally critical. How good they are at what they do is central to any teams success. This can be assessed partly on qualifications, but it is also based on additional skills and experience. In the case of capability, capacity and willingness to improve can compensate for limited capability. It is a careful balance. There are many talented people with great capability, but without a capacity and character they can be hard to manage.


Capacity refers to work ethic and the willingness to engage in the role, eagerness to learn and improve. Not all staff are committed to being the best. Some simply don’t have the time, or don’t have the passion to give the time necessary. Often the staff that demonstrate the least capacity are the most talented. On the other hand demonstration of an excessive work ethic is no substitute for ability and the skillset needed to perform the job. Over working can lead to fatigue, mistakes and detrimental performances in time.


Character is the most critical of all three. Coaching is arguably a vocation, not a profession. Character refers to the mental and moral qualities of the individual. Do they do the right thing? In coaching this has become a more troubling in recent years. The care, health and welfare of the player should always be paramount. Anyone who compromises on this is of low character and runs the risk of not only damaging the program, but the health of the players.

Again, this is a people business where teamwork is what gets things done. It’s always a two-way street. You can’t give too much to people and sacrifice your own welfare, nor can you take too much and demand too much from people who work for you. Never make someone a priority who makes you an option.


Know your Boundaries


Many people can change, their willingness, a strong culture, environment all help. But with extreme issues some can’t. As one coach said to a scout about a player with an apparent substance abuse issue before a draft. “AA has a success rate of 5%, what makes you think you can do something they can’t?”. Remember you don’t control anyone, only yourself, so if someone decides they want to something foolish, that’s their problem ultimately. Don’t give up on them but know where your boundary ends.


At the core of all good teams is good communication. It’s the same in any relationship. Be honest, upfront, talk through feelings and thoughts and if things change explain them. Remember, no one has passed a mind-reading test. If they misinterpret something, it’s usually because you’ve not explained it properly or clearly and allowed them to form their own conclusion.


That said, there are always some people you just can’t reach, and in those cases, perhaps you should avoid them – hiring is not about who you hire – it’s about who you don’t hire.


New book ’59 Lessons – Working with the world’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ where I share my greatest insights into what makes winners truly great.

Out now!

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