I liked the way that Patrick Collison, co-founder of the hugely successful Stripe summarised the key attributes that they actively seek in the people that they hire.
'I think the three that really stand out to me are this rigor and clarity of thought, this hunger, appetite, willfulness, determination, and this … warmth and desire to make people around them better off.'
He describes how they look for clarity of thought and willingness to think the unthinkable and to be misunderstood. Often, he says, companies look for the easiest path, for 'smoothness' in transactions, to reduce friction. And yet there is value in ruffling a few feathers. In my work with leadership teams I sometimes talk about how consensus-driven decision-making, or the need to get every stakeholder aligned before you can move forwards, can slow everything down. Whilst some decisions may be so-called 'one-way door' decisions many others are more lightweight choices where it is better to move quickly and course correct than it is to deliberate or water-down the original proposal. 'Gold-plating' every decision can be a real problem when trying to create a truly agile business. As I write about in the book, a culture that can move fast is one that combines comfort with dissent with mutual trust and respect.
Similarly, at Stripe they look for people who can combine a determination to run against the status quo and willingness to 'push against the expected trajectory of non-existence' with qualities that actually make them nice to work with ('interpersonal warmth and a desire to make others around them better and just a degree of caring for others').
Trust is one of those under-valued attributes in organisational culture but so is the ability for people to really feel that they can say what they really think in that environment. I think these kinds of softer qualities are what can really enable a company to have the kind of culture that can truly support being bold but also agile.