3 Things Buffett Looks for in People

Warren Buffett is widely known for picking incredible managers for the businesses that Berkshire Hathaway owns. What does he specifically look for in people that he can trust?

Warren Buffett is visited by many students. When they pay him a visit, he will often play a game with them.

He will ask these students to pick a classmate. But not just any old classmate, he’d say to pick the person that they’d want if they can get 10% of their earnings for the entirety of their life. He asks them which classmate they would pick and why.

“Are you going to pick the one with the highest IQ?” asks Buffett. “Are you going to pick the guy who can throw a football the farthest? The one with the highest grades? What qualities will cause you to pick them?”

He will then change things up. He’ll ask, “Who do you believe is least likely to succeed? And why?”

He will then ask students to pull a lot of piece of paper and list a person’s positive attributes on the left, and then list the negative attributes on the right.

In the end, the most useful qualities do not have anything to do with grades, family connections or IQ. People make their choices based on integrity, kindness and generosity.

Buffett will also ask students which qualities they are incapable of stopping and which are they incapable of having.

“To Buffett, the answer is none,” writes Michael Eisner in Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed. “These qualities are choices people make. People decide whether or not to be generous, they decide whether or not to take credit for things they didn’t do, whether or not to keep score in life, whether or not to be envious.”

In the end, it’s really quite simple. Attempt to eliminate the qualities in the right column, and develop the qualities in the left column.

“You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person,” Buffett tells us. “Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. I tell them, ‘Everyone here has the intelligence and energy — you wouldn’t be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it, you can’t learn it in school.”

Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett were both very fortunate. Able to work hard and were both smart. This improves their advantage. But they chose to have integrity.

“You decide to be dishonest, stingy, uncharitable, egotistical, all the things people don’t like in other people,” argues Buffett. “They are all choices. Some people think there’s a limited little pot of admiration to go around, and anything the other guy takes out of the pot, there’s less left for you. But it’s just the opposite.”