Successful outcomes are the only thing that really matters in business, of course, but there are a lot of different ways to get there. My recent experience successfully placing a new CIO at Panda Restaurant Group gave me a glimpse into an opportunity that many companies may not recognize.

The need for technical excellence, educational pedigree, and an achiever’s drive are almost always a prerequisite for any key addition to a team. In the case of a senior leader joining Panda, there was a critically important added dimension that made the fit a unique and exciting challenge.

You see, at Panda, the culture and values of the organization are uniquely important. However, I would argue that the unique importance of this is a tool that could be much more effectively utilized by so many more organizations.

The makeup of the person is a consistently clear focus for Panda. They expect people who join their team to possess a unique set of characteristics that ensure they will fit into the culture of this extremely successful and rapidly growing company. Think about the following dualities that every person that joins Panda is measured against. People are expected to be:

Disciplined and Embraces Change
Results Oriented and Caring
Confident and Humble
Competitive and Team Oriented
Student and Teacher

There is much to learn from this, and not necessarily from the specifics of this set of cultural norms. A powerful message for me, and I believe a key strength of Panda, is that they really care about what’s important in their company.

I’ve come to believe that companies need to stop and ask themselves what is really important to them – call it values, culture, mission, whatever – the key question is just plain “what’s important?”. For some companies like Panda, the nature of the people is key; for other companies there may be a completely different set of critical criteria.

For instance, on the Wall Street trading floor, what’s critical is surely thinking fast and making quick (and wise) decisions. In a doctor’s office, care for patients and their well-being may be most important. In heavy manufacturing, safety may matter most. None of these scenarios is better or worse than any other; however, the power is in clarity – knowing what matters.

Through my search consultancy I’ve come to believe there is a central factor that can serve as the SUPER-GLUE FOR GREAT TALENT in companies – it’s the FIT between what really matters to the company and the true makeup of its people. I believe that vision alone (where the company is going) does not naturally engender loyalty, but I believe a true fit between the values of an employee and “what’s important” to the company can supercharge loyalty.

The power of fit can be achieved on Wall Street, at the Doctor, or on the factory floor, but fit must start with the company taking seriously a commitment to what it considers really important – what it truly values. Ask yourself if your company knows what is really important. If so, then be consistent and leverage it. If not, it may be time to look under the hood.

My recent experience with the passion for values fit at Panda has inspired me to communicate about this subject; I want to help more companies understand their potential opportunity to create a stronger bond with their talent. In addition to this story I am beginning to speak to leadership groups on this subject – please let me know if you know of groups that might want to hear about this topic.

Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback and please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.


Jeff Black
Managing Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618