Embracing Confusion, Hiring & Management Advice, and More – Jeff Hunter on The Knowledge Project, Hosted By Shane Parrish

Check out The Knowledge Project Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Fundamentally, humans are irrational creatures
  • “If you want to be in the field of helping others become great, you have to start with the fundamental assumption that people have greatness within them. There’s no proof for that—it’s not a scientific hypothesis; it’s just a belief you have to understand and hold.” Jeff Hunter
  • Embrace confusion!
    • Think of confusion as your brain dictating the inefficiencies of your mental model library
    • “The best thing that can happen, in my opinion, if you care about learning and unleashing potential, is you want to get confused” – Jeff Hunter
  • Hiring advice: If you’re looking for a diamond in the rough, you have to be willing to accept someone with a unique background and an unconventional set of experiences
  • After hiring a new employee, it’s important to over-index on communication and checking in

Intro

  • Jeff Hunter, as the CEO & Founder of Talentism, has been single-mindedly focused on what drives and unleashes human potential for nearly two decades
  • Host – Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish)

Books Mentioned

Jeff is on a Mission to Unleash Human Potential

  • Jeff’s career focus: Helping others unleash their full potential (which he does through his work with companies)
    • Companies are already paying workers—they might as well aim to capture 100% of their abilities
    • “If you want to be in the field of helping others become great, you have to start with the fundamental assumption that people have greatness within them. There’s no proof for that—it’s not a scientific hypothesis; it’s just a belief you have to understand and hold.” Jeff Hunter
  • To find purpose, one must discover meaning in their work
    • Meaning = feeling a sense of pride in the outcome of your efforts
      • Jeff, personally, feels this way after helping someone uncover the mindset they can do and be more than they ever believed possible

Humans Are More Irrational Than You Think

  • Fundamentally, humans are irrational creatures—we think more like primates than intellectual beings
    • “Most of the way we live our life is in that non-logical, non-rational sort of realm. We’re making snap judgments; we have intuitions; we’re taking in data and filtering it all the time without even knowing it.” – Jeff Hunter
    • (Humans are mostly instinctual thinkers and irrational actors)
  • People often remember emotional experiences more than they remember logical ones
    • For instance, you’re more likely to remember how you felt when a boss screamed at you compared to the specifics of what was actually said
  • 🎧 Put yourself in different situations, see how you feel, and begin to decode the evidence of what you’re truly experiencing 
    • Whenever you’re in a new situation, aim to understand how you’re feeling and why those feelings are arising—only then can you begin working on inner self-improvement

Work = A Series of Experiments

  • Think of your workday as a series of experiments, not a series of tasks
    • Realize you’re at work to learn; think of each project is a learning experiment that helps you grow and develop your potential
    • 🎧 Try different meeting formats, approaches, and communication style
      • Become conscious of your workday and keep an eye on which experiments works best for you

Embrace Confusion!

  • We fail to learn when the world acts in accordance with our mental models
  • “The best thing that can happen, in my opinion, if you care about learning and unleashing potential, is you want to get confused” – Jeff Hunter
    • “Confusion is indicative that you’re having an experience that’s different than what you expected. That confusion is necessary to begin to make sense of the world, yourself, and the connection between the two.”
    • 🎧 “Confusion is both the thing that can kill you and the thing that can propel you to greatness—it just depends on how you deal with it”
  • Think of confusion as your brain dictating the inefficiencies of your mental model library
    • The worst thing you can do when you’re confused: Telling yourself stories to make yourself feel better; seek the truth, not comforting lies

Avoid These Narratives

  • Avoid the ‘BSL’ narrative: Bad, Stupid, and Lazy (don’t tell stories about how bad, stupid, or lazy, you or other people are)
    • These narratives are counterproductive and fail to teach us anything
  • Also, avoid the “my generation was better” narrative
    • “Every generation thinks the generation that follows them doesn’t have their work ethic, their drive, or whatever. It’s a convenient narrative we tell ourselves to try to make sense of why people are acting the way they’re acting.” – Jeff Hunter

Management Advice

  • “Management is the act of achieving goals through the work of others” Jeff Hunter
    • Managers are designers, not doers 
  • Managers should focus on clarity, not control; the three steps to clarity:
    • Have a set of clear goals for both sides
    • Be clear of how you’ll reach those goals
    • Give feedback to employees (people can’t improve without a feedback loop)
      • Feedback isn’t an accusation; it’s an attempt to figure out what’s working and what’s true
  • As a manager, be clear about the behavior that’s accepted and punished in the organization
    • Don’t just talk about culture; enforce positive actions and inform employees about the punishments that will occur as a result of lousy behavior
  • Too often, companies fail to train managers for their role; they just throw them onto the fire—this is a big mistake
    • “I think most managers really struggle to be good at their jobs” – Jeff Hunter

Hiring Advice

  • When hiring:
    • 1 out of 5 people will be successes
    • 2 out of 5 will be “just okay”
    • 2 out of every 5 hires will end up qualifying as failures
    • (And these stats don’t change when utilizing a good head hunter or recruiter)
  • Humans are bad at assessing talent/job qualifications
    • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell shares examples of several unconscious biases that arise when evaluating talent
    • “Most human beings are actually just interviewing for somebody that they find attractive or trustworthy … It’s really a terrible system” – Jeff Hunter 
  • If you’re looking for a diamond in the rough, you have to be willing to accept someone with a unique background and n unconventional set of experiences
  • If you’re hiring for a new role that you aren’t familiar with, understand you likely don’t have enough information to make the right hiring decision. Instead, depend on people who’ve filled that job in the past for help.
  • Think of yourself as a detective rather than an interviewer – look at the details, the facts, and ask fundamental questions about a job candidate’s skills and experiences

Post-Hiring Advice

  • After hiring someone, you must:
    • Train them
    • Provide them with explicit directions and offer feedback
    • Help them make sense of their environment 
      • Human beings get confused in new environments—it’s the manager’s responsibility to get the employee to clarity 
      • Jeff’s advice: Over-index on communication and checking-in
  • The job isn’t done after you hire someone; it’s only the beginning
    • “Hiring the person was the easy part; managing is much harder than hiring” – Jeff Hunter
      • Hiring is just a transaction; managing is an on-going relationship
  • 🎧 If someone’s doing great work on a task, give an explicit compliment that explains why their work was superb/ why it matters to the company

Additional Notes

  • Leaders often don’t realize the influence and power they hold over the people below them (whenever someone has the power to promote or fire someone, they hold the keys to their psychological kingdom)
  • More likely than not, the world isn’t the problem; the problem is the way you’re interpreting it
    • Always start with the reality that you’re missing something 
  • Always aim to solve the root problem, not just the immediate problem