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Principles in Brief


The most important factor when selecting and retaining employees is whether they have virtue – including being contribution motivated. But it is critical that they also have a talent that will help us succeed long term. Employees who lack virtue can do far more damage than those who lack the right talent. Both factors are needed for any of us to create value.

A person’s ability to excel in a given role mostly depends on their aptitudes or intelligences. In psychologist Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory, there are a number of independent forms of intelligence and none of us is equally gifted in all of them. When someone is strong in an intelligence, such as logical-mathematical or interpersonal, they have the capacity to excel at activities requiring that intelligence. Whether or not Gardner is correct about the number or kinds of intelligences, it is clear that major differences exist among individuals and the roles they can perform well.

Talent alone does not guarantee success. Because the world is rapidly changing, continual learning and development are critical. We must work to develop our gifts into valued skills by trying new things to determine what we are – and are not – good at, and seeking feedback from those who will tell us the truth.

Because many organizations emphasize hierarchy, people often chase promotions or prestigious roles. Instead of fixating on some predetermined career path, we strive to create an environment where employees seek roles where they can maximize their contribution. This leads to greater opportunities and rewards for the employee.

At Koch, we strive to apply the division of labor by comparative advantage instead of forcing employees into one-size-fits-all roles they aren’t good at or don’t care about. Good supervisors work with their employees to help each develop a role with the responsibilities that will enable them to self-actualize by contributing. An employee’s role, responsibilities and expectations (RREs) describe how they need to utilize their talents to maximize overall results.

It is critical that everyone is in a role that fits their talents. If an employee is contribution motivated but not performing well, we probably have them in the wrong role. We need to help them find a more suitable role in their group or elsewhere in Koch. This requires that employees be honest with themselves and their supervisors about where their talent will enable them to fully contribute. Good supervisors guide these efforts and remove barriers that prevent employees from realizing their potential.