You care about your company. It’s not just your job, it’s your life.
It’s not just the product. It’s the whole package that comes with running a business – the challenges, the frustrations and the triumphs – because you know that in some way you’re making the world a better place. So naturally, you want the right staff on board with you. The ones who don’t just have the right skills, but who share your outlook and your values.
After all, finding staff with the skills is easy. It’s between you, them and the quality of their résumé. But those invisible qualities, the ones that can’t be written down – that’s another matter.
Let’s start at the bottom – the staff with the skills but no passion, and who don’t want one. A career doesn’t fit into their life plan; they just want the pay check to support themselves and their family. Don’t take it personally. What do they do with the rest of their lives? Their hobbies and interests might not match yours exactly, but will likely be close enough that you will see where they are coming from – and they will see the same about you. You will know if they’re going to fit into the culture of the company that you’ve created, and it will make it much easier to engage their nascent passion once they’re on board.
Then there’s the ones with the skills but no particular passion … well, maybe … kinda … not really thought about it before … This could be the first time they’ve had to articulate it because they’ve been looking at it from the wrong angle. Say you want staff for your shoe shop – try and ask the question, ‘are you passionate about selling shoes?’ with a straight face.
(Of course, they might answer ‘yes’, and mean it, in which case your problems are over – though theirs may just be beginning. Being a monomaniac in one specific area of retail will ultimately be self-defeating if that area has a downturn and they need to seek re-employment elsewhere.)
But it works if you rephrase the question: ‘are you passionate about providing good quality service? About working hard? About making a difference?’ Bring in people with qualities like that, and the passion for the actual service you provide will follow.
‘What do you see yourself doing in five years?’ The question is a bit of a cliché, but it works – it gives you an idea of their grasp on reality, the dreams that may crystallize into reality, and it helps them structure what is going on inside their heads into some kind of coherent path.
(You must also accept that their development might ultimately take them in a different direction and that one day they’ll head off elsewhere. Gain them, tame them, train them, use them, lose them – that’s life.)
And then there’s maybe the most problematic group –the ones whose passions have already formed, but in another area. Great! Give those passions full sway, and watch them come alongside with yours.
The finance director of a computer network knew nothing about networking when he joined the company, and not a lot more when he left. He had got where he was because his own passion was accountancy – the excitement of handling large sums of money, the personal satisfaction of doing so with accuracy and integrity – and he had worked his way up to a point where he wanted a role with the kind of responsibility that the network offered. But he was also one of the network’s most ardent, vocal supporters, because its existence let him do what he loved doing, and his personal values meant that he could easily identify with the network’s core goals of providing accessible, fast networking to all.
Whereas, a company we know that manufactures scientific instruments wanted a technically literate creative type to take on a role as communications executive. And they got her, but she soon found after joining that they had no intention of letting her indulge that creativity. Everything was done to the CEO’s exact vision, or not at all.
The company was right to recruit a technophile – someone who enjoyed working in a scientific environment with other scientifically minded people. She could talk to them in their own language, and learn from them. And they were right to want someone who was creative, because a successful communications role entails constantly pushing at the boundaries and finding new ways to deliver the message. Their mistake was then to deny her that creativity. After three morale-draining, unhappy years of having idea after idea rejected, she left for a much more fulfilling career as a freelance. This was six months ago and the company hasn’t been able to replace her; it has yet to publish a new edition of its newsletter or update its website (we checked).
So, if you’re having difficulty finding the right staff, add one small word and your problem might be solved. They’re not the right staff … yet.