Anna Vogt
Oct 16, 2019

Opinion: Why you should hire for speeds, not just skills

Getting the right mix in your team is crucial.

Getty Images
Getty Images

If you found yourself watching the World Athletics Championships in Doha in the past two weeks, I’m sure you marvelled at the pace, strength and agility of some of its protagonists. Often wondering how on earth they run so fast, for so long or so effortlessly.

From sprints to marathons, once again the championships were a true testament to mind over matter.  Especially for Allyson Felix (pictured, above), who – a mere 10 months after giving birth by emergency C-section – has broken Usain Bolt’s record by winning a 13th world championship title.

It’s always interesting to see what types of athletes are attracted to which discipline. Or, rather, what discipline suits which athlete.  Are you a fiery hot head, explosive off the starting blocks but only firing on all cylinders for tens of seconds? Or are you a Steady Eddie, impossible to distract or throw off pace because you just keep going and going and going, undeterred by distance, obstacles or the competition? Or are you a bit of both, but never either: sometimes explosive, usually consistent, able to dial it up or down according to the challenge or the competition… a real all-rounder?

Of course, a successful athletics team needs all three kinds of performers: the sprinters, the middle-distance runners and the marathon runners. Without this combination, teams struggle to compete.

And it’s actually not too different with us. Our teams in our departments, the people in our agencies – we’re champions of mental gymnastics. Mind athletes with different speed settings. Next time you look at your department roster, consider if all of your three camps are filled.

There are the ones who can run at a challenge with speed. Intensive bursts of brain power that quickly make an impact and are only sharpened by the obstacles they come across. They’re adrenaline junkies, made better by looming deadlines and great on their feet. Then they need a rest. A hot shower. And lots of carbs.

Next are the thinkers who thrive on time, who need a steady pace to gather momentum. They’re in their element when there’s a consistent, long-term team relationship that doesn’t suffer change too often, elegantly steering around speed bumps en route. A comfort zone is their nirvana.

Then there’s the rare breed that falls between these two. Getting their kicks from speed every once in a while, but not uninspired by routine. They rise to any shift in gear. Whether it’s speeding up or slowing down. Variety floats their boat and they often work twice as hard to match their skills to the task. Like Allyson.

What’s the point I’m making? The type of energy you bring to a job is often more important than the specific knowledge you’ve accrued. Cast for speeds, not just skills.

Anna Vogt is chief strategy officer at TBWA\London. This article first appeared on

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