Hire Motivated People And Teach Them

Being clear on what your company stands for, the reason for being, helps you hire people who believe in the same things. You can hire already motivated people and inspire them, rather than hiring skilled people and then trying to motivate them. The second approach never achieves the same as having people whose life mission aligns with yours.

In Start With Why, Simon Sinek points to the story of Anglo-Irish adventurer and explorer Ernest Shackleton, who set out to the Antarctic in August 1914. After a long journey on a ship, he and his team would face 1,700 miles-long crossing from the Weddell Sea across the south pole to the Ross Sea. The biggest polar journey at that point. Unfortunately, things didn’t start well. Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, got trapped in the icy sea a few days out of South Georgia Island. The crew was stranded for ten months until, in November 1915, the ice finally crushed the ship, and she sank. The crew got to a small Elephant Island, where they waited for a rescue. Shackleton and five men embarked on a journey to bring that rescue. And they succeeded. Amazingly, throughout the whole ordeal, no one died. There was no mutiny, no cannibalism, no suicides out of desperation.

Sinek suggests that the reason why the team survived was that Shackleton recruited the right people. He got people who believed in what he believed, were the right fit for the ship’s culture, and took the adventure as more than a job. Shackleton was less interested in his crew’s qualifications and more in their motivation.

His ad in the local newspaper didn’t list a set of requirements and didn’t care about years of experience sailing. Instead, he tried to attract people who truly belonged on such an ambitious and dangerous expedition. People with the right motivation who were in it for the right reasons. His advertisement read as “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” Those who applied were survivors. They were not afraid of the challenge and hardship. They truly belonged on that ship, and that is why they survived. Even though there are some questions about whether the ad actually ran in any newspapers as Shackleton’s expedition got enough coverage for free, let’s not spoil the inspiring story.

“It is much easier to teach someone than to motivate them.”

When you write your job ads as a listicle of requirements, you focus on “what.” If someone has these skills, you invite them for an interview, and unless they mess up or create a bad first impression, you hire them. When you write your job ads as Shackleton did, you may attract fewer candidates, but those who read it and say to themselves, “that sounds great,” are the right fit. You hire motivated people you can train. Rather than hiring trained people, you will constantly try to motivate. It is much easier to teach someone than to motivate them.

It is easy to hire skilled people. You can give them a test, and they either pass or not. They either have the knowledge and the skill or not. Hiring motivated people is much more challenging as their intrinsic motivation is not easy to test. People can lie. And at interviews, they often do when it comes to their motivation. They will say what they believe you want to hear. The best you can do is to spend enough time explaining the company mission, the values, and the type of culture you are trying to build, and be as candid as possible.

“Your goal is not to hire the best but to hire the right people who are excited about the job.”

Like Shackleton, I usually try to scare candidates in the job interviews by describing the culture in a bit more extreme terms than it is. The point I want to make is to ensure there is no misunderstanding or wrongly set expectations. If someone gets scared, good, they are not a good fit and would struggle. Those who get excited and honestly say to themselves, “yes, this is a place where I belong,” would join. They won’t even entertain other job offers as they ultimately feel this is the right place for them. Your goal is not to hire the best but to hire the right people who are passionate about your mission, who believe what you believe, and who can get excited about your cause. They will join already motivated, and all you have to do is inspire them to give your mission their best.

It is not the job or the skills. It is the attitude that makes a great employee. A classic example is the story of two fictional stonemasons who are building their whole life a huge stone wall. When you walk to the first one and ask what he does and whether he likes the job, the answer is that he is building a wall. And he’s been building that wall for years. It is monotonous, hard work without much excitement. But it is a job, and the pay is okay. Then you approach the second stonemason working alongside the first one, and you ask the same question. His answer is different in one crucial detail. He starts by describing the “why.” “I’m building a cathedral! I love the job. Yes, it is hard work, monotonous, and not much excitement. But I’m building a cathedral!”

These two stonemasons are doing the same work under the same conditions. Yet, one of them has a sense of purpose while the other doesn’t. Just by understanding “why” what you do is important and buying into it, you can completely change your view of the job. You do what it takes. You are more loyal, more resilient, and more productive. The first stonemason will readily take a better-paying job, even if it means working on a shed. The second one will refuse the lure of competing offers as he is part of something bigger.

“When hiring new employees, basic competence is mandatory, but it is not enough.”

Does it mean that skills don’t matter at all? Of course they do. People need competence to get the job done. But it is not enough. The problem with focusing on skills is that you may end up with a group of brilliant experts who are in it just for themselves. They joined your team not because they believe in your mission, but because you pay better than competitors and you have tons of perks or fancy offices. You may be disappointed with the results. These people have the knowledge and the skill, but that doesn’t mean they use it to the best of their abilities. They may lack motivation and may not care enough about what you are trying to do. In time you may find yourself having a bunch of overpaid slackers who are not a real team. You may find having a toxic environment where everyone cares only about themselves.

What is your take on the topic? How do you ensure you hire the right people for your organization? Is attitude more important than skills? Is it easier to motivate skilled people or to teach motivated ones?

Photo: Comfreak / Pixabay.com

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Categories: Leadership, Recruitment

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