By John Lariccia, WelcomeHome
“Everyone is so different.”
That was the first thing a new employee (Jefferson) said to me when I asked how his initial week went.
Sensing my puzzlement, he elaborated.
“James is in a funk marching band, went to college for chemical engineering, and dreams of starting a coding camp. Ed went to the Academy and comes from Atlanta ‘royalty.’ Alistair is almost 60 and has had just as many careers as he has tattoos.”
I laughed but then I paused. He was right. But, he was also wrong.
Sure, they’ve come from different places, with different backgrounds, at different stages in their careers.
They are musicians and gamers and hunters and poets.
They are daughters and fathers, sons and grandmothers.
So, yes, in that way, they are different. But, they are also very similar.
The Surface Trap
Jefferson fell into the trap so many employers fall into – he was looking at the surface.
Unquestionably, the “surface” matters for many positions. I wouldn’t want my clinical team staffed with well-meaning English majors. And, I would hesitate to turn over my senior living community to an industry novice.
The key to building a team is making the surface the beginning, not the destination.
Once you establish that they can do the job, you need to look beyond to traits that aren’t represented on a resume or LinkedIn bio.
Specifically, ask yourself (and ask them) . . .
- Are they driven to make a difference?
- Do they have a passion?
- Does it bother them when others are struggling?
- Do they ask “why”?
Great organizations – whether on a football field or in a corporate office building – need difference makers. When you interview potential employees about their prior jobs, do they talk about what they accomplished (instead of what they did)? Have they moved on from prior roles when they felt their impact was diminishing or hindered? Do they ask you questions about how they can influence your company, your seniors, your referrers? If they do, you likely have a difference-maker looking to be placed in a position where they can have an impact.
Passionate People Can’t Be Created
Someone either is or isn’t passionate. You want people that have that inner fire. It bothers me when a candidate talks about their excitement for our industry, our company, or a role but, when asked about what excites them more generally, there’s no response. Passion needs to come from within. No job is so compelling that it will light a spark. If, after 20, 30, 40 years of living on this planet, someone doesn’t have a passion, they aren’t a passionate person.
Now, I would argue it does not matter what they are passionate about. If their eyes light up about knitting, great. Model car building, super. Their college squash team, bring it on. There just needs to be something because I’ve found people with one passion often have others and they multiply over time. It’s a lot easier to take someone inclined to be excited and direct that energy than to start from scratch.
Look for Givers
Every team is just that – a team. All the individual stars in the world won’t create a functioning organization. When have you helped someone overcome a challenge? What success has someone had that you feel you had some (small) part in creating? What’s been your best (and worst) experience working in a group? The candidate doesn’t have to demonstrate they were instrumental in a rags-to-riches rise or share stories of Apollo 13-like heroics. You just need to be comfortable that, when help is needed, they will be there.
Ted Lasso popularized the Walt Whitman saying: “be curious, not judgmental.” Manuals and experience have the answers to some problems but most challenges present a new wrinkle. Organizations need people who want to provide answers but appreciate the need to ask questions. For most candidates, we present them with this situation. It’s 9 am. You have a client training at 11. The CEO asked for adoption statistics. The head of sales would like you to join a pitch at 10. And, you have to double-check data migrated over from a legacy CRM into WelcomeHome for a new client that needs to be done by 2. How do you prioritize your time?
I don’t want to give away the secret to future applicants, but the right answer is to start asking questions. Why does the CEO need the report? Is it time-sensitive? Would the head of sales be in a bind or am I a “nice to have”? You can’t test every way someone will be curious. You just need to know they know to approach problems with a questioning mindset.
You Can’t Teach Character
Ultimately, knowledge can be shared and skills can be taught. Character is much harder to develop.
So, for Jefferson and everyone else looking at WelcomeHome’s team, yes, we are all very different. Yet, we are very similar. We are a motley collection of curious, passionate, caring difference makers.
And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.