The best hire you can make is an up-and-coming leader who can not only come in and crush the job, but enrich the organization in the process. A Culture Enhancer.

People with job skills can fill a job, but Culture Enhancers can lead across different roles, companies and industries. They're harder to find, and worth it. Below are 4 key “skills” they tend to have in common.

If you’re a decision maker, this framework will help you assess top talent.

If you’re a job candidate, these are cheat codes to raise your marketplace value.

Diving in:


Does the candidate have a plan and strategy for their own life?

It’s sometimes helpful to Harvardize this topic, going deep down a rabbit hole of graphs and charts, but it can also be quite simple. In fact, simplifying conversations around vision, purpose, and “life strategy” is a skill in itself.

When we interview someone, we want to understand: do they know the direction they want to go personally, how their profession matches that vision, and how they are tracking progress on both?

To quote the Harvard Business Review:

“In surveying our… participants, we found that… only 21% had outlined what a great life means to them, 9% had identified their purpose, 12% had set a vision for their life, 17% had created concrete goals and milestones, and a paltry 3% had developed what could be called a life strategy.” (Rainer Strack, Susanne Dyrchs, and Allison Bailey)

Leadership roles are overwhelming — conflicting interests and personalities, general ambiguity and sheer workload. If you need a clear thinking leader who doesn’t get bogged down by these things, start by finding someone who’s the CEO of their own life.


We once placed a Design Director at a highly influential fashion brand. There were 5 semi-finalists, all of them insanely impressive, all with similar world class backgrounds. Based on interviews alone, it was a 5-way tie.

But when they each performed a sample project, everything changed.

One of the 5, we’ll call him Phillip, submitted a project that was the clear winner. It wasn’t just 10% better — it was 10x better.

It was so good that it changed the whole playing field and created a new problem — if Phillip didn’t take the job, then what? The runners-up now paled in comparison.

My team and I huddled up and asked each other — why was Phillip’s project so much better? What was different about him, that we might have identified from the beginning?

The answer was easy: In between his tenures at traditional corporations, Phillip had also run his own brand. This taught him how to take risks, manage things outside of his direct control, and most importantly, understand the jobs adjacent to his own.

His ideas were more holistic, because he wasn’t just a designer, handing off designs to whoever was in the silo next to him. He was a product creator, start to finish.

Nearly 100% of our clients, when hiring a key leadership role, cite “scrappy / self starting / entrepreneurial” as a top criteria.

We are in the age of the generalist. Skill stacks > skills.

“Specialization is for insects.” - Naval


You’re not just hiring the candidate, you’re hiring the person they are becoming.

We want to understand a candidate’s aptitude beyond demonstrated experience, or in other words: their potential to be better than they currently are.

One way we get a sense of this is to just listen — do they simply sell their experience, or do we also hear about outcomes? Is there humor, conviction and storytelling included?

How much enthusiasm and curiosity is coming across? How much humility? Do they know what they don’t know?

We maintain long term relationships with our best talent, making it possible to measure rate of improvement between conversations.

Did they go home and research that thing that came up in the first conversation? Have they shown movement toward what they said they were working on? Are they being promoted by their current employers?

If growth isn’t happening to them, do they actively look for ways to trigger it themselves?


Unless you're hiring someone to work out of a basement in their pajamas, they'll need to be, quite simply, not off-putting to other humans.

This seems obvious, until you see firsthand how many talented experts are being professionally held back by their own personalities.

It's imperative to get a sense of the candidate’s life outside of work. Do they have a quality friend group? Are they the leader of it?

Whenever possible, we take candidates into the world and observe  — what type of treatment do they attract, and how do they treat others? When someone gets their order wrong or steals their parking space, how do they react? Can they say hard things in easy ways? Can they at least look a barista in the eye?

People who are highly skilled AND naturally likable tend to make everyone around them better.

The holy grail here is finding the “Cool + Kind” skill stack. When you’re cool, people want validation and acknowledgment from you. When you’re kind, you give it to them.

To be both is a superpower that builds trust, commands influence and gets things done.