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It’s short-sighted to think hobbies don't have a place at work. People’s hobbies are what they're excited about, and you can use that to help your team.
We had a hardcore cyclist who talked about cycling, knew all the good bike paths near the office, and had extra tools on hand to fix his bike. How can you use that to help the team? We bought a bike pump for the office based on his recommendation and other "good tools to have on hand." The first win you get is recognizing him as a bike expert. The second win is that we had a lot of people in the office that biked to work, and having an in-house expert was super handy to those people. Third, for new hires, we showed the map he annotated with all the easy bike paths nearby along with valuable notes (e.g., "traffic bad here, cross here instead"). That immediately helps him and the rest of the office cyclists. If you’re interested in carbon reductions, then that helps too. Total win!
We had another person that was an event planner in a previous job. While they were good at their current job, they were a fantastic event planner. Every holiday or random event was a chance for them to shine, which gave the office a great atmosphere. Altogether not my area and not something I was good at, so finding someone who could work with just a little budget and create something magical was great.
Your time is the best way to invest in people
As a manager, you must understand that the people you select for your team (via hiring, transfers, etc.) will be a long-term investment. Maybe you'll be able to gain skills immediately and apply them in the short term, but the compounding returns you get in the long term will dwarf the short term. Many managers hire based on immediate need. That leads to recruiting ads like “must have 3-5 years of Tool X” or bullet after bullet of tools needed in the hiring ad. Or causes statements like “have experience working with customer XYZ,” which vastly narrows the applicant pool, perhaps missing a good candidate that matches part of the job requirements.
I've made decisions on hiring that did not solve an immediate need but paid off 2-3 years later. I did that because I saw someone that could grow multiple levels, step up, and lead. A lot of managers operate on too short a timeline when they’re making personnel decisions. People will wonder how you managed to have good leaders, but they won’t see that investment you made a few years ago. By looking for the potential in people, you can make a sharp investment that your competitors don't see.
What happens if you invest in a person and then they eventually leave?
Option A - You can get upset and feel like they betrayed you. You can harden yourself, quit forming close relationships with colleagues, and never mentor anyone again. I have seen this happen to managers, who become cynical over time. They start to see people as easy to replace because they’ve been burned before, and they don’t form attachments to people because they’re assuming they’ll leave anyway. This is a terrible outcome for the manager and the company.
Option B - You can wish them good luck. Offer to be there if they encounter problems at the new firm. You can be happy you helped get them to a place where another firm thought they were a great hire. When they land at another firm, they will tell their new coworkers about you, what you taught them, and that you are available for advice if they need it. They will notice if the new firm doesn't want to invest in them because they saw what your investment in them meant.
I’ve chosen Option B every time.
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