Role dilemmas and recognizing and appreciating people who may offer (the not necessarily obvious) “skills you can teach and skills you can’t”. WCU – ENT600

Wasserman (Founders Dilemmas) states that founders often insist they do not care about titles.  He goes on to give examples of how they do and how unclear and direct titles and leadership most often causes problems and sometimes clashes of power.  I can personally relate here and often think about this in my current career.  I have always thought of myself as someone with the capability of accomplishing and a doer, I never chased the title early in my career and often placed myself behind others that were looking to attach their name to a term of entitlement.  I did find that often now in my career I find some jealousy in those who have climbed the ladder at a faster pace as I settled to perform the work and not apply for the next position.  As my skill set and influence has grown within my company, I do find that I perceive myself as more capable to lead than some co-workers with the title.  I must be cognizant to not dismiss their directives or to overshadow them with influence that I may have over areas of our business.  Thus, as Wasserman leads us to the understanding that Titles may provide structure and direction for the company and not just the founders I can certainly understand. 

              As Wasserman states, “Titles are viewed with a symbolic significance and can translate into real authority.  They also speak volumes to outsiders who often interpret them quite differently than the co-founders themselves do” as well as “titles can extend motivation” to help the company succeed.  Given the correct founder or leader is in the position the company will expect leadership from the position and expect to follow.  It is equally interesting to me when we consider how titles can motivate the folder to succeed and perform, or in my case demotivate. 

              Although clearly defined roles are certainly more important at the top of the leadership pyramid, they resonate down through the organization chart and manifest the character or persona of the company itself and affect the type of employees that it will attract and retain.  Herrenkohl (How to Hire A-Players) teaches us the importance of identifying and determining the skill set that we need in the types of people that we recruit and then creating a work environment that attracts that worker and fits their skillset for success.  Being open-minded to different working environments even though we may not initially be comfortable with it just may net a high producing and happier team than if we would have stayed with the fundamental work environment.

              Identifying the traits, you desire in your team and then a large pool of people that hold these traits will provide you great opportunity to recruit from will result in a greater opportunity to land A-players.  Herrenkohl states that “life is an interview” and remembering that every visit you make to every business is a recruiting trip.  Take the time to tell strong performers they are doing a great job subtly opening the door for future recruitment.  He continues with stating that –       Motivation, leadership, commitment, Ability to sell, and desire to achieve are all traits that you cannot teach, and you are better off finding people that already have these traits and then teach them to be successful in your business.  Again, I find myself in a real-life dilemma here as I am losing my right-hand A-Player with my current company and can certainly see a decline in my personal life soon.  It would feel a lot better if I would have been cultivating a group of people that I could recruit from with the traits that are desired. 

              As Motivation, leadership, commitment, Ability to sell are all traits that we may need to focus on in finding personnel in our businesses, the statement by Herrenkohl reminds me of a skill versus motivation grid that I have always kept in the back of my mind as I hired and worked with co-workers.

              The idea being, if I could hire the will then most often the skill I could teach, or it would soon follow.  Also, a highly motivated or willful hire would most always leave me in a situation to guide or empower which is a lot easier than to try to create motivation itself or to spend very important time directing and teaching. 


Wasserman, N. (2012). The Founders Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton Univ Press.

Herrenkohl, E. (2010). How to hire A-players finding the top people for your team – even if you don’t have a recruiting department. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Will vs. Skill Grid –

6 thoughts on “Role dilemmas and recognizing and appreciating people who may offer (the not necessarily obvious) “skills you can teach and skills you can’t”. WCU – ENT600

  1. I enjoyed reading your post! It is interesting how titles can be motivating for some and demotivating for others. For me personally, I find titles motivating overall. In the workplace there are typically employees that naturally take an informal leadership role within an organization. In my opinion, a title makes the leadership role “official.”

    I agree with your statement, “Given the correct founder or leader is in the
    position the company will expect leadership from the position and expect to follow.” I think that having the correct leader impacts whether titles are motivating or demotivating. I have seen some circumstances where there were leaders that were “leaders” in title only, which is demotivating for employees that see a lack of leadership.


  2. Jeramy,
    Titles in a business as you mentioned are important to many individuals and others are not concerned. However, as with any business the title each person carries can make a difference as to how others see those individuals associated with the business. A title should not be used in order to “boss” other individuals around which tends to happen. Many people believe once he/she moves up to a certain title that he/she has the authority to “boss” other individuals within a company. To me that particular title means that individual is capable of performing specific task(s) within the department better than others. You’re right about traits that can and cannot be taught and we must focus on those traits in order to find the “right” people. The grid you provided is an excellent representation!


  3. Hi Jeramy,
    Its a shame when people are overlooked and not given the proper title or recognition for their work. I also fall into the group that is motivated by their title. A title, as well as monetary compensation, is how the organization conveys its trust in a person, and that person’s responsibilities. When founding your company, will you have co-founders (i can’t remember if you have started your own company or not)? If so do you think you will hand out executive titles from the start or will you wait till the company is larger?

    I thought it was fascinating how Herrenkohl mentioned nontraditional places to look for prospective employees. His kind of thinking reminds me of another book called Freakonomics, which is a fun read. I think people who can think outside of the box like that are really what the innovation part of this program is about. When you can look past what people are currently doing and see how they are doing things , and what those traits those actions show, you can begin to see how these people can be a good fit for your company.


    1. Thanks for the post Jacob! I have not started my own company yet and will look to do so along the side of my current career. For the short term anyway.

      I find it interesting how Titles actually help define the role of the holder and it helps them understand their responsibilities.




  4. Hey Jeramy,

    I’m curious as to how you got that graphic in there. I hate that you feel you’re losing someone reliable. The good news is that just being active in activities like this course and this program help give you access to a large pool of human capital. As you put, I’m a big proponent of trying new work environments. I’m especially a fan of the open setting corporate setups without doors, offices, and chairs. This just seems to lighten the mood of everyone in the room. Though I’m sure that there are exceptions from time to time. many businesses do report of better productivity utilizing this method.



  5. Jeramy,

    It sounds like you’re already leading. According to John Maxwell, there are 5 levels of leadership, with Positional being by far the lowest. Just because you don’t have the title you are a leader and a good management team will recognize that you’re already following that you want to and for what you have produced for the organization (level 2 and level 3). I know it can be frustrating when we witness an incompetent leader that we have to follow or get fired, but you don’t have to wait to be a leader, you already are. Good luck with your endeavors.



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