Jul 22nd, 2019

Forget T-Shapes

For a while now folks (especially those loosely connected to people management) have been talking about “T-Shaped People”: The fabled creature which is both a generalist and specialist at the same time. A concept I never fully understood – maybe as I never really encountered someone who is merely a specialist or a generalist. My experience was always that people are good at something and generally interested in many things.

The concept is, of course, compelling; plus everything which gives people a cool-sounding label (“I am a T-Shaped Person!”) seems to work itself through culture easily. Today I can’t have a conversation about hiring which doesn’t bring up the letter T.

But the tide is turning. Maybe because we understand that T-peeps are nothing more than a label. Or we wake up to the idea that now everybody needs to be a “generalist”. Which is, of course, also BS.

Instead of slapping stickers on people (and missing quite a bit of amazing talent as they can’t be neatly categorized), spend the time to really get to know someone. In my own hiring practice I found nothing more revealing than working with someone for a little bit — the reason why they have a trial period in Germany (alas – I hardly see anyone not making it through their trial period; which indicates that the way my German brethren run the system is also broken). I have encountered quite a few companies which offer a one-week try-out — fully paid and a wonderful opportunity for both parties to get to know each other. Give it a try!

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