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5. Wanted: Entrepreneurs – Globe and Mail April 21, 2011

Globe and Mail Thursday, April 21, 2011
JOHN WARRILLOW | Columnist profile

This is the third in a six-part series on my formula for building a team of entrepreneurs to work for your company. The first two steps involve winnowing résumés to come up with candidates who demonstrate a competitive streak, and eliminating those with an MBA.

Once you have a short list of a few candidates to meet in person, there is one critical personality trait you should be looking for. It’s what psychologists call “locus of control.”

Those who study personality types believe that individuals have either an internal or external locus of control.

Having an external locus means that you look at the outside environment to explain your results. Consider the example of someone showing up late for a meeting. A person with an external locus would look for outside factors to explain his or her tardiness, pointing, for instance, to traffic jam or a delayed train.

A person with an internal locus of control, by contrast, would look inside to explain missing the start of the meeting. Someone with an internal locus would chastise himself or herself for budgeting insufficient time to navigate heavy traffic or failing to take an earlier train.

Successful entrepreneurs almost always have an internal locus of control. Competitiveness and locus of control work together. You want people who are driven to win and feel a sense of self-determination – that they, not some external factor, control their destinies.

I have one simple question I ask candidates in an interview to determine their locus of control: “Tell me about the last time you made a mistake.” Those who can’t quickly think of an example of a blunder likely have an external locus of control. They are so busy finding outside reasons for the problems in their lives they never look in the mirror.

Some people may come up with a mistake, only to start justifying it. For example, they’ll say, “I went over budget last quarter, but the problem was that my biggest supplier came in way over budget without telling me and…” Such people are displaying an external locus of control. In their minds, it was not their own poor planning that led to exceeding their budget but the vendor’s overcharging that forced the overage.

Run, don’t walk, away from these candidates.

The people with an internal locus of control will tell you about a mistake they made, explain their error with 100-per-cent candor and accountability, and be able to detail what they learned from the experience.

To build a team of entrepreneurs, find competitive people with an internal locus of control.
John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, which will be released in April.