Positivity, Passion, and a Kaleidoscope

Photo By
Hannah Ziegeler

There’s more than one angle to WSI’s Jeff O’Brien.

Just one look at the desk of WSI President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff O’Brien reveals a lot about his company. Since 2001, WSI, a recruitment and staffing specialist currently with offices throughout the Midwest, has impacted thousands of lives by helping people get full-time and temporary work assignments. Over the years, WSI has also dramatically increased the number of companies using its selection model to test the caliber of candidates. Beyond these successes, the one thing that O’Brien is most proud of is his team. He says, “I’ve never had a more collaborative, effective, enjoyable group of people to work with than I do currently. And that makes what we do fun.”

1. Book

Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street is about culture interviews and cultural fit. Its systemic approach to finding the right candidates and how to interview to discern between good and bad fit is quite powerful.

2. Value Cards

These cards are marked by our values: Expertise, Uncompromised Excellence, Integrity, Passion, Positive Attitude, Respect, and Responsiveness. We write notes to ourselves and each other on them. If I had to select one value that trumps all other values, it’s positivity. In fact, positivity is the benchmark we use on all internal interviews to assess fit with our culture.

Hands down, 100 percent of our people demonstrate positivity. We have to be adaptable in our business, because things change every day and we deal with thousands of different people annually. It’s easy to get burned out over time. The selection of people who are naturally wired to see the positive has been enormously impactful to our culture.

3. Magazines

I’m reading a great article now about how building the right reputation can help win a company more business. For us, that’s proven itself time and time again. Two pieces of our recognition that I’m particularly proud of are acknowledgements from Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, in both West Michigan and the nation, and Inavero’s Best of Staffing Survey & Award. Ultimately, the coolest thing about Inavero’s award is that they go straight to our clients for feedback; less than two percent of the staffing firms in North America achieve the client satisfaction scores that we’ve achieved.

4. The Button

Whenever I hear we can’t do something and I feel that we can figure out a way collectively, I hit it. Occasionally, it’s my joking way of calling someone out. The good news is I haven’t had to hit it for at least four years.

5. Kaleidoscope

Two of my vice presidents gave this kaleidoscope to me as a Christmas gift. When I asked them why a kaleidoscope, they said, “It speaks to the type of mind that can perceive any given situation from a multitude of perspectives—a mind that sees patterns, connections, and relationships that more rigid minds miss.”

6. Photo

When my daughter graduated from Loyola University Chicago, she went to Bhutan to teach fourth graders in a remote village. My wife and I went to visit her for two weeks in that small country between China and India. That’s the longest vacation I’ve ever taken. We spent a week hiking in the Himalayas with seven donkeys, a Sherpa guide, and porter. We slept in tiny pup tents and climbed up to almost 14,000 feet over five days. It was life-changing because our daughter brought us a perspective that we’ve never experienced before. As parents, we give our children experiences. She turned the tide on us.

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