For those of you born post-1992, you may have never had the pleasure of seeing Angus MacGyver solve a life or death crisis with little more than a paper clip in the classic 80’s TV show, (covertly named) MacGyver.
MacGyver was a secret agent who didn’t carry a gun but his inventiveness meant he would always find a way to get out of a crisis. He is such a cult hero that Urban Dictionary defines ‘MacGyver’ as a verb: “To use ingenuity to fix or remedy a problem using only the tools available at hand” (or my personal favourite definition: “someone that can jump start a truck with a cactus”.)
Though I was a big fan of his mullet and Ray Ban sunglasses in the 80’s, today I marvel at his ability to just get the job done.
In my job, I’m lucky enough to speak to the leaders of some thriving organisations, who hire smart individuals with impressive back stories. But the most common refrain I hear from those leaders is that the smarts and skills are not always enough.
Regardless of industry, seniority or pay cheque, what often separates the talent from the average performers in an organisation is their ability to just find a way to get it done…or to ‘MacGyver’ if you will….
If you are a leader, think about the people who report to you, and the last time you made a call about delegating a critical piece of work. When we’re in crisis mode, we often throw the hot potato (or handsome opportunity!) to the person who won’t let us down…the one that sees obstacles and crashes through them, and treats challenges as road bumps, not brick walls.
We do so because there is a massive difference between the MacGyver’s of the world and everyone else. They:
Don’t stop until the job is done. If the paper clip doesn’t successfully deactivate the bomb, he’ll try the tape! Failure is not an option, so perseverance becomes the norm.
Don’t make excuses. Sure, a gun would’ve been helpful when 4 sworn enemies were approaching, but we never saw MacGyver spit the dummy, or whinge about under-resourcing! If we have to make it work with a crappy piece of cardboard, then we will.
Are resourceful and use whatever they have at their disposal. Often the star performers in an organisation seem to have great networks and helpful friends in other departments who support them in getting the job done. This is not a coincidence – they know how to create an army to solve a problem.
They back their own ability. Personally, I think there was some serious creative license taken when he used some candlesticks and an electrical power cord to revive a colleague, but if he thought he could, he typically did. His power of self-belief probably meant that he accepted challenges that others thought were impossible.
If you wish you had a team of MacGyver’s at your disposal (I mean, who doesn’t?!) then I encourage you to search for them in recruitment. If you can explore whether your candidates have a history of making the unachievable happen, you are half way towards making your life easier when the next work crisis comes around.
“When have you faced a challenge that others initially felt was insurmountable?” is a great place to start.