Bag of Carrots: What are the Togetherness Tells?

Feb 18, 2015

Bag of Carrots: What are the Togetherness Tells?

On a recent trip to Kansas City, I somewhat unusually started talking to my seatmate and came to find out he is a personal trainer who runs his own business.


I mentioned my sprint triathlon goal and recently acquired exercise habit, and he said he could tell I’m active because I had a bag of baby carrots stuck in the seat pocket.

WHAT?! Why are you looking at my food?!

But then I realized I do the same thing all the time, as it relates to my line of work. I, too, have a certain set of “Tells” that I look for when hiring or coaching people.

So, what is my equivalent of a bag of carrots? What are signs that someone is Together? Disclaimer: Just because someone is “together” does not automatically make them effective! As many of you get ready to hire staff for next year, this list could make an interesting starting point for your initial impressions

A Together person has:

  • A ready-to-go writing utensil. I remember once meeting a new colleague at another organization who couldn’t find a pen in his first meeting; he ultimately did not succeed there. But don’t be dazzled, either, by people who pull out crazy cute pencil pouches filled with a bunch of colored felt-tip pens. This COULD be a good sign, but it could also mean exactly nothing.
  • A formalized note-taking system. Whether it’s via Evernote on a laptop or tablet, or a beloved notebook, I look for people who have evidence of a note-taking system. It means they value follow-up. I have been known to stop meetings and say, “I don’t see you taking notes, and this leaves me worried that we will not actually follow up on all of these action items.” Yes, I still have friends, and rumor has it that people have enjoyed working with me!
  • Evidence of preparation. People should carry on-their-person extra copies of their resumes, meeting agendas, directions to and from the location, and so forth. The folks who go the extra mile will often have a pre-written set of questions to ask at the end of an interview or conversation.
  • Knowledge of the organization. I want to make sure people have prepared and done their research. You might test this with questions like, “Which one of our core values is your favorite and why?” or, “What do you think about our results in Rhode Island?” Yes, this puts someone on the spot, but I want to know they have done their legwork.
  • A well-articulated personal organization system. I really don’t care what your system is, but when I ask you to show me how you keep yourself Together, the answer simply cannot be, “I have this planner I love, but it’s at home,” or “I use Outlook, but it’s not synched with my phone.” Someone who is committed to their system, no matter what the tool or tools of choice, should carry it with them at all times.

There are a million questions you can ask around prioritization, execution and organization – you’ll see them soon in The Together Leader – but in the meantime, those are the “carrots” for my topic of expertise.

What do you look for?

PS I wonder what my seatmate thought of the Diet Coke I consumed along with my carrots. Gotta keep people guessing!