Imagine the best employee/employer situation you’ve enjoyed. Now, ask yourself a few questions. What fueled the creativity and built the partnership? Was it incredible PowerPoint presentation ability, a 4.0 GPA in college, or extracurricular interests? Or was it the relationship, compatibility, inside jokes, common goals, and mutual respect? For me, it’s always been the latter, as an employee and employer.
As a young manager at a local behavioral health center, I wore the right suits, I used the right language, I asked the right interview questions, and my department was no fun, functioning by my sheer will to succeed and about 15-20 hours a week of unpaid overtime. I couldn’t understand why my team and I weren’t knocking it out of the park. I had asked about 5-year goals and my hires all had perfect answers demonstrating drive and commitment; they all had college degrees, letters of reference and appropriate experience in healthcare-specific customer service.
Then I remembered how I landed the job, after making it through the strangest interview I’d ever experienced. I distinctly remember walking out of my soon to be boss’ office thinking, I either bombed it or nailed it, but I’m not sure which one. We didn’t discuss my short and long-term goals. We didn’t get into the finer points of my administrative acumen. We had a conversation about philosophy. We agreed and disagreed. We laughed. 10 years later, he’s still a mentor and friend. I took my staffing issues and the interview outline provided by HR to him to see where I was going wrong. He threw the guidelines in the shredder bin and gave me excellent advice.
And so, because I trusted my boss to not expect perfection from me and to allow me to learn and play with this new conversational interview technique, I was free to make some “risky” hires. (If the truth be told, I was a risky hire. Job descriptions have always been rewritten for me.) I hired young people with energy and no experience outside of college, I hired recovering drug addicts with colorful backgrounds and gratitude for a new lease on life, I hired moms returning to the work force with 15 year gaps in their resume and the ability to keep multiple plates spinning in the air and single moms who may need some scheduling flexibility and displayed crazy commitment and work ethic. Within 6 months, my department was a new department. There was laughter. There was loyalty, creativity and drive. Our department was full of compassion and personal responsibility. When the work piled up on us, we ordered pizza and put in a few extra hours, no duress needed. I began to trust my team and take my vacation time.
Forgot the status quo questions that yield rehearsed answers. Have a conversation. If communication is strong in serious and light-hearted matters, you have a firm foundation for a relationship. Relationships drive business. Relationships yield results. Relationships make work enjoyable. Relationships breed loyalty. If you hire a person you genuinely like, you’re more likely to joyfully give of your time and invest in their success. You’ll be quick to forgive mistakes and available to provide guidance beyond duty of position.
Remember this. Great people, not great resumes, take businesses and ideas to the next level.