One of the most meaningful bits of advice you can get when working with employees is this: You can help make individuals more of what they are, but you cannot make them something they are not. There are critical success factors you cannot change about others; in fact you cannot even teach them to others. If you have employees who do not have these traits, do not waste time, training, and effort with them. It will not bring the hoped for results. The key is to hire people who have these traits. There are six traits to look for when hiring someone for your business. In addition, you can use them to determine the growth potential of your existing employees.


There are two key things you can teach others: skills and knowledge. That is the definition of teach: to impart a skill or knowledge. You can teach technical detailing skills, you can provide knowledge about tools, chemicals, and vehicle materials, etc.

But, the following six traits are something you cannot teach someone. You have to hire these traits and then develop them by consistent coaching.

1. Talent

Defined: A special or natural ability or aptitude.

The truth is that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot teach talent; you have to hire it and develop it. In fact, you cannot make yourself talented either, which is why anyone wanting to excel must determine the talents they have, not the talents they want. Everyone has a talent for something; what is critical is that employees have the talent for what you are paying them to do.

Certainly, talent is never a guarantee of performance. However, it does provide a head start toward excellence. In fact, excellence is impossible without talent. This is why training an untalented person longer, harder, and faster will not make them a great detailer or manager if they have no natural ability or aptitude. The best you can hope for is to make them less bad.

2. Drive

Defined: An innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need.

You cannot teach what is innate, and you cannot “make” anyone driven. Drive is an inside job. Drive is like talent, you cannot put inside of someone what is not there; you can only draw out what exists. Sure, you can temporarily change someone’s drive level with a deadline, incentive, or threat; but without real internal drive, as soon as the external stimuli disappear so does the drive.

3. Attitude

Defined: A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something reflected in one’s behavior.

We would all admit that it is hard enough to change your own “settled way of thinking,” so the chances of changing someone else’s prevailing outlook is very remote. Of course, you can temporarily change someone’s mood based on how you treat them, but their natural attitude — good or bad — will eventually resurface.

Each of us is responsible for choosing our own attitude. While we cannot choose what happens to us, we do have the power to choose how we respond; and negative, “can’t do” people have a long history of making the wrong choices in this regard. Can someone change? Yes! Can you change them? No chance!

4. Character

Defined: The aggregate of moral and ethical traits that form the individual nature of a person.

In your life as a businessperson you have probably tried to influence someone’s character with a good example, words of wisdom, or a speech on ethics. However, despite these efforts, you are incapable of changing the individual nature of another human being. Again, the question is: can they change? Yes! Can you change them? The answer is: absolutely not! Much like attitude, character results from the choices people make and the values they embrace; you cannot make those choices for them.

Peel character back to the core, and it is clear that many character flaws are rooted in the desire for instant gratification — shortcuts that take one away from pain and to pleasure without consideration of the consequences. Highly talented people often fall into the trap of making poor decisions, reinforcing the principle that character protects talent.

5. Energy

Defined: The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.

Many people have a strong internal drive and start the day with a flash, but run out of gas by midday, or become overwhelmed when asked to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. No one can teach anyone the strength and vitality required for sustained physical and mental activity. While external forces can affect drive and energy, it is not sustainable through such means.

6. Passion

Defined: A strong feeling of excitement or enthusiasm for something, or about doing something.

Remember, neither drive nor energy compensates for a lack of passion. Many people have high drive and energy levels, but lack excitement or enthusiasm for what they do. As a result, they often feel frustrated and misemployed. Passion, like drive, can lie dormant in someone and may be awakened by a compelling vision, need, or cause. You can stir it up, but you cannot force it down.

A manager’s obligation is to create the conditions to provoke passion in others through meaningful work and with a compelling purpose. However, pep talks and positive reinforcement does not substitute for the internal passion someone must have to sustainably excel, through the many challenges, in a particular position. When all is said and done, you cannot make anyone passionate about what they are doing.


The most effective way to determine whether potential employees have these traits is during your interview with them. An in-depth interview, with highly effective questions, will help uncover the existence — or lack — of these traits within a candidate. When you delve into a job candidate’s background, these six factors will either show up or they will not. Success leaves clues and so does failure. While you cannot expect to find perfect people — we all can get off track from time to time — the “off track” tendencies must, undoubtedly, be the exception rather than the rule.

The same reasoning applies when you are evaluating those currently in your employ for future performance potential. Knowing that you will have a limited ability to affect any current employees without these traits, you should be able to more accurately assess their ability to contribute to your detail business in the future.

Bottom line: Your life and business will be much easier when you really, really, grasp the fact that some people will not change no matter what you do.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at