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ITT 148: The S Curve and How to Hire Amazing Employees with Whitney Johnson

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Whitney Johnson is a speaker, podcast, and author of “Build an A Team,” published by Harvard Business Press. In “Build an A Team,” Whitney explains her “S curve” framework – a methodology for understanding competence and mastery in the context of personal and professional development.

The Whitney Johnson S curve framework was developed while she co-founded the Disruptive Innovation Fund, along with Clayton Christensen (author of the one of my top 11 books for entrepreneurs). Using the “S curve,” you can better facilitate the development of employees (and yourself) – and it’s even a great tool for identifying and hiring amazing employees.

The following are four recommendations from Whitney on organizing yourself and your team to reach a state of optimal challenge:

  1. Are you taking on market risk or competitive risk? Be willing to play in the spaces where others aren’t playing. Taking on market risk is good; taking on competitive risk is bad.
  2. Are you playing to your strengths? Discover what you do great and focus on what you do well.
  3. Is the work you do hard but not debilitating? If you’re scaling the ‘S’ curve and it’s hard, but you love it – you’re in the right spot. If you dread the work you do, or have anxiety around the next day or next week’s work, perhaps you need to shift roles or responsibilities.
  4. Are you gaining momentum? Is your rate of growth increasing? If not, you need to shift your frame and your focus, otherwise it’s a matter of time before you burn out. Momentum is critical.

I brought Whitney Johnson onto In The Trenches to share her process for hiring, firing, and developing an organization that keeps employees improving and growing.

In this broadcast, whitney johnson and I talk about:

  • How the ‘S’ curve impacts your business, whether you know it or not
  • Why you should hire for general competency, not mastery of a particular subject matter
  • Before you hire your next employee, do this (starts at 10:30)
  • How to use the ‘S’ curve to evaluate your own drive, passion, and motivation
  • The most fundamental unit of disruption (hint: it’s not an idea)
  • 4 questions to determine where you or your team members exist on the ‘S’ curve

And much more.

Useful Resources from my Conversation with whitney johnson

How to connect with WHITNEY JOHNSON online:

WHITNEY JOHNSON on personal and professional growth:

“Every day, say ‘I’m going to do an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t,’ and know that it’s totally okay if it doesn’t work. That flexes our muscle of getting really comfortable with failure.” – Whitney Johnson

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