Book Review: The Attributes by Rich Diviney

The Attributes – 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance

By Rich Diviney

Literally hot off the press, this insightful book by retired US Navy Commander and former Navy SEAL Rich Diviney is a must-read for coaches and anyone interested in personal and professional development.  As one directly involved in the selection of candidates to be accepted into the intense Navy SEAL training, Diviney poses an evocative question:   why is it that some candidates who appeared to have all the necessary skills did not make it through the training, when others who appeared less skilled were successful?  In answering this question, he makes an important distinction between skills and attributes.

Skills, he writes, are learned behaviours that tell us what to do in specific situations and environments.  Skills are about how do the job.  Attributes, on the other hand, are the innate traits that determine how an individual will absorb, process, and respond to the world around them.  They are like the hidden code behind the apps in our phone and are always running in the background.  They inform the skills.  Thus, skills are about how to do the job.  But whether someone can do the job depends on the attributes they possess.

For example, someone may have the skills to do the job of managing a large-scale project.  They may possess strong skills in strategic and operational management.  However, if they do not possess the attributes of adaptability and resilience, they are unlikely to cope with the unforeseen challenges that inevitably arise in large projects.  A person who is about to teach a class may have all the knowledge and skills regarding the information they are about to impart, but unless they possess the attribute of situational awareness – i.e. the ability to read the room – they are unlikely to effectively communicate what they know.  Thus, says Diviney, if you want to understand human performance in yourself and others, the first step is to understand attributes.

Through years of observation in selecting and training elite defense personnel, Divinity identifies and articulates 25 attributes that enable optimal performance in individuals in any setting – personal or professional.  He categorises these attributes into five groups:

  • The GRIT attributes – including perseverance and resilience.
  • The MENTAL ACUITY attributes – such as situational awareness and learnability
  • The DRIVE attributes – which include discipline and open-mindedness.
  • The LEADERSHIP attributes – decisiveness, accountability, and others
  • The TEAMABILITY attributes – including humility and integrity.

Diviney states that while attributes are a part of everyone’s circuitry, they are not immutable.  They can be tweaked and modified, and he gives practical tips on how this can happen for each attribute. 

The book is very readable and will provide great insights for anyone wishing to increase their capacity, especially while under pressure.

The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance by Rich Diviney
Published by RANDOM HOUSE UK

Reviewed by Dr. Mark Setch, Director of Training, Neurocoaching Australia