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GREAT IDEAS: FIT by Warren Kennaugh {Interview}

Lessons from Warren Kennaugh, author of FIT

“You can take the person out of the Stone Age, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.”
(Quote from FIT, by Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London business School).

What makes one hire a success, and another a disaster?

Behavioural strategist Warren Kennaugh, who’s worked with a Who’s Who list of clients including the Australian Federal Police, Johnson & Johnson, BUPA, Cricket Australia and Toyota Motor Company, says in his book FIT, it’s about understanding personality and its impact on performance.

Here are key takeaways from his book FIT and our interview:

Personality testing and team building exercises often stay in the self-awareness bucket. We find it insightful, have fun, and head back to work. Know there is more ‘meat on the bone’ and use the info for tactical planning.

Too much diversity might be a problem. If we’re too diverse, too extreme in our thinking, I, as the new team member, will spend all my time trying to make sense of the environment I am in; it will not lead to high performance.

A behavioural strategist looks at not only personality fit but also cultural fit.  Hire people who are similar enough and different enough to bring value; who agree on a commonly aligned goal but bring a different perspective.

We ignore both positive and negative patterns. We dismiss our natural ability or innate skills; because we wrongly assume that everyone can do what we do. Too many people are working in areas to which they have no natural affinity, making them miserable.

We’re out of time. We don’t have 5-10 years for individuals to get into the role: “We’ll work you out, and you’ll work us out.” Fit early on is absolutely critical. Engagement is a lag indicator.

If we don’t have close enough fit to begin with, there will be no engagement. It won’t matter how many apples are in the lunch room, if I’m not a fit, I’m going to go home dissatisfied.

Start at the interview. “Hey Warren, there’s a natural fit with three or four of our members, but you are a bit different. However, this is what we see that you bring.” Let’s disclose that and get that out in the open before we begin. So, the new hire goes in eyes wide open.

Warren uses personality test Hogan Assessment Systems. It reveals what drives an individual from an intrinsic point of view, and how they do under stress and pressure. According to Warren, it’s used by 60% of Fortune 100 companies.

We don’t have a suite of positive and negative behaviours. We just have favoured behaviours that narrow as pressure builds. Stress can make asset behaviours into liabilities.  

Everyone can pull off brilliance now and again. The trick is to identify where natural and consistent behaviours would be considered brilliant most of the time, and operate from there.

Be more rigorous around understanding the motives, values, drivers and culture of teams in detail, then employ people for those teams with a good cultural fit, but who bring cultural diversity. Not necessarily sex or place of birth, but different points of view. That can happen in the same suburb or age group.

GREAT EIGHT with Warren (eight getting to know you questions we ask all our authors):

Book recommendation: Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss (with Tahl Raz). Chris was a head hostage negotiator for the FBI, and in the early days their negotiation style was very cognitive; they brought a whole level of empathy and engagement into negotiation. Truly understanding wants and needs. Fantastic read.

If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would that be, and what’s the book title? I’d co-author with any of the successful people who demonstrate good performance, like a highly successful sports star, and perhaps the title is Not What You Expected.

What’s a great piece of advice you could share? We’re all on a path to find out what we’re good at and play to our strengths. The sooner you can find out what you’re good at, you can go and place yourself in a position to take advantage of that.

What’s been your lowest moment, and how did you recover? When I was starting out in this field in the early 90s, it was a difficult grind. I was uncertain if this would be valued. I got some early clients, but it was the doubt in those early days: “Was I adding value?” I decided, wisely or naively, to keep going.

How do you relax? Our family are skiers, and I love to go on a snowboard and spend a day on the mountain.

What’s a fun fact about you that’s not widely known? I’ve had a wide and varied career. I started as an engineer. I did some song writing with a partner, and we travelled around America trying to sell our songs, which wasn’t overly successful. This was many, many, years ago.

What’s the secret of success? Working out what you’re good at and adding value. I loved a comment from the former CEO of Hogan Assessments Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic: “There are three things you need to be successful in this world; you need to be skilled, driven and likeable.” We’re seeing the emergence of likeability; 20-30 years ago that wasn’t really that important, but it’s becoming more important. He made the point that if you’re not skilled, not driven, not likeable, then you’re probably unemployable. To be highly successful, you need to be all three.

What’s a prediction for 2025?  A move away from authority figures. People are going to become more consultant-like, we’re going to be more aware of our own brand. We’ve already started to see this shift.  

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