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Is Life Fair – Strategic Discipline Interview Questions

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jun 7, 2010

"Life isn't fair, get used to it!"   "Fair is something you take your pigs to in the fall!"

These are just a few of the comments you may have heard about life and its fairness or lack thereof.  My favorite is the second one.  One of my sales people provided it for me from her father.  She was an exceptional sales person even if she took a few liberties that required me to rein her in at times.

Is life fair or isn't it?  How do you feel about this?  Would you be willing to ask this question in an interview, and what would you look for in an answer.

The question occurred to me as I watched my son play basketball this weekend and last.  I must admit I want fairness when my son is playing basketball, however if you've ever watched or participated in any athletic competition you can pretty much be assured there will not be complete fairness.  I'm an official and as much as I work at being in the right spot, either my lack of athleticism or X-Ray vision means I will miss a call. 

How does one respond to this unfairness?  If you're me you can rant and rave and try to get the official to improve. [Okay that doesn't works!]  If you're a player you can play through it, take responsibility, and accept that while it can't be 100% fair your effort and energy can make up for it. 

The best definition for luck I've ever heard is, "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity."  If you believe this you will accept complete responsibility for anything that happens.

Two parties were involved in an unfortunate incident last week.  A pitcher had a perfect game right up to the last out.  The umpire called the 27thout "safe!"  He later admitted he'd made a mistake. [Read OMG's Dave Kurlan's short blog on this key sales competency here]  The pitcher I believe made himself more admirable then ever by his response, "no one's perfect!" 

When interviewing how would you want someone to answer the question, "Is life fair?"

How the umpire and this pitcher responded to this incident indicate how they might answer that question.  It suggests more about them then you might imagine.  My recommendation when asking, "Is life fair?" is that you ask for an example to prove their point.

Is life fair?  I can answer that correctly two ways:  "Yes.  Mistakes can be made, yet with my persistent determination I can overcome and reverse any degree of unfairness that life appears to throw at me."

"No life isn't fair, yet with my persistence and determination I can make sure that nothing anyone or anything throws at me will ever prohibit me from achieving the outcome, goal, or priority I want to achieve."

Do you have employees like this?  Are you willing to ask tough questions like this to find people who will not accept a bit of unfairness that life often dishes to us on our way to realizing our goals?

Employees who feel they are lucky [Zappos culture] who have a strong Locus of Control are the backbone of successful companies.  The only way to get them on board is to discover whether or not they believe in creating their own luck, making sure life is fair, and that they are responsible for their outcomes.  If you like these types of questions and the outcomes they produce, recognize that the only way you develop them is by having the Strategic Disciplineto create and prepare for strong interviews.

What's your next interview going to look like?

Topics: Strategic Discipline, Core Values, Discipline Plan, Zappos, Locus of Control

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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