The Journey is the Reward – 5P’s 


Premise:

As entrepreneurs, our journey is almost never complete. There is this constant urge to do the next thing.. There is a new product to launch, a new market to capture, a new competitor to quell. A new revenue goal to achieve, a new milestone to reach..

And if we do sell off our existing company and cash out, there is always another company to build!

In this ever changing and evolving goals, the key is for us to enjoy the journey as the reward in and by itself.  If we dont enjoy the journey for itself, this becomes one of the most difficult and the toughest job in the world.

Now, this is easy to say but difficult to do. So, how do we ensure that we enjoy the journey:

  1. Purpose: Know why we started on this journey. Keep it written on a small visiting card and in your pocket. When things get difficult, as they will, take it out and read it. This sense of purpose and the “why” gives us the determination and grit needed to survive and overcome the current challenge (whatever it is).
  2. Priming: One other way that we can continue to enjoy the journey is by priming ourselves to enjoy the journey. When we get up in the morning and tell ourselves that this is an amazing ride that we are on and are one day closer to our success, it primes our brain to look for everything that corraborates this world view.
  3. People: Hire people whom you would love to take home and have fun with. The entrepreneurial journey is tough by itself, dont make it harder by hiring people who are axxholes and who bring a lot of angst and negativity in your life. Be extra careful to hire people who bring in energy and are also fun to be with. THis doesn’t mean that you don’t look for competency. This means that just being competent is not enough. That is just the baseline for someone to quality to get considered.
  4. Progress: Another thing that most of us fail to do is to see the progress we have made. There is solid research that indicates that if we are able to see the progress we make on a daily basis, we are in a much better position to persevere. You could do this by designing the day so that there are a lot of tiny wins that you see through out the day. These are small little challenges that you need to overcome and once you do, taking a moment and celebrating them.
  5. Play: At times we get so focused on our work that we push not only ourself but our teams to the brim of breakdown. The best way to avoid this is to schedule play time wth our team. There are two ways to do this. First is that we block certain time blocks in a week or once in two weeks which are designated play times. This is when we go out and play with our teams and create a easy, relaxed environment so that we can all unwind. The second way is to bring in elements of play in everything that we do. It could come up in the way we brand our company, product, the way we run our meetings, the way we engage with our customers/partners, the way we hire, etc. You get the flow. Play becomes a thread in our culture. THe first way is easier to implement than the second one. I would prefer a combination of both. I would love to work and lead a company where play is encouraged in every form and fashion and then there is also a designated date/time specifically to unwind as a team together.

Conclusion:

It is important for all of us to celebrate the journey much more than the moment when we achieve the goals that we set out to achieve. In this post I talk about a few ways that we can make the journey more fun and celebrated. There can be a lot more ways that we can do this. What is critical here is that we need to make it intentional to enjoy the journey. It is extremely easy to get bogged down in the whirlwind that is running an enterprise to lose sight of the importance to enjoy the journey. So, as a leader it is important to let others in our team know that it is their responsibility to point it out to us when we lose track of this important insight, so we can get back on track and start enjoying the journey again.

Entrepreneurship is fun, challenging and immensely rewarding (emotionally, financially, psychologically, spiritually and socially). Let’s make sure we enjoy our ride!

Hiring – Whose Job is It Anyway?

Hiring (1)

Oh No, not another interview 🙁

This is how I felt when I was asked to attend my 4th interview for a customer service role at Saint Gobain Glass more than a decade back.

I had already gone through a series of aptitude tests and 3 rounds of interview. Finally, when I thought that I had the job nailed, I got this request asking me to visit their office for another interview and this one will be conducted by the MD himself. During the entire interview, I felt as if i was being evaluated for my character and judgement.

To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. The role for which I was being interviewed for was just a customer service executive and to think that the MD of the organization would spend his valuable time to interview me was a bit surprising and intriguing at the same time.

Long story short, I got the job and was in for even more surprise. Shortly after I was inducted, I got invited to a meeting with the MD again. This time with a set of people who had joined with me or within the same month that i had joined.

I got to know that he spends about a couple of hours with all new recruits every month (at least every other month).  This was part of his regular schedule. In this meeting, he spoke about his vision for the organization, the kind of company that he was trying to build, his expectations from us and finally checked if we were adjusting to our new roles well.

Then he would randomly meet with a cross section of the company in an intimate group setting and ask about honest feedback on a regular basis.

I was also told by my HR colleagues, that it was rare that he rejected candidates whom he interviewed, but that did happen from time-to-time, when he felt that the candidate would not be a good fit for the kind of organization he had envisioned.

Now, more than a decade later, I realize and understand how important his actions were.

My learning from his behavior were

  • The importance of hiring the right kind of people.
  • The importance of staying connected and making sure that these new employees were treated well and settle into their jobs smoothly.
  • The importance of setting the right expectations from the start
  • The importance of consistent and continuous engagement & communication with the team.
  • That hiring the right people is ultimately the responsibility of the leader and not anyone else and important enough not to delegate.

Do you agree with his actions? What else should he be doing or should he be not doing?

3 Things That I Look for When Hiring

Hiring

We all end up in a situation when we are required to hire someone. It might be to grow your business or to replace someone who has decided to move on her career. 

There is already lot of good advice on hiring best practices. However, I would like to share with you three things that i look for in a candidate before deciding to hire her. 

  1. Passion: The first thing that I look for in a person is passion. The passion could be for any topic, not necessarily their jobs or roles in the past but for any topic. I have realized that it is much easier to help people find passion in work, if they have experienced passion elsewhere. 
  2. Friends: The question that I ask before making any hiring decision is will he make a good friend for me and the team. The other thing that I try and find out is her circle of friends. This tells me about their social skills and ability to go along with people. 
  3. Learning: The last thing that I look for when hiring is their openness to learning and exploring new stuff. The world we live in is changing so dramatically, that keeping up and ahead of these changes will require us all to be open to exploring, learning and occasionally failing. Have they failed at anything? Have they learnt anything new in the past few years? 

If I find that the answers to all these questions are in the positive, I go ahead and hire her. Everything else can be taught.    

What do you look for in people before you hire them?

This post has been adapted from my book – Your Startup Mentor

 

The Most Important Decisions That we Make as Leaders

In 2006, I was being interviewed by Saint Gobain Glass for a role in their customer service, production planning and logistics team. I had to go through 2 levels of screening by the HR agency, followed by an aptitude test, an interview with the hiring manager, the HR manager and then finally by the MD himself.

I was told that the final interview for every employee hired in the organization was done by the MD himself (it was a 250 employee organization when I was being interviewed), irrespective of the role the employee is being hired for. That did not make sense to me at that time as the role for which I was being was too insignificant for an MD to conduct an interview for.

However, I now realize the importance of his actions. It is easier to hire people for their fit to the organization culture that you want to build as a leader than to change the culture later. No wonder we had a culture of high performance all around us and at the same time we all enjoyed working together in that organization.

So, one of the most important task as the leader of an organization is to ensure that you are hiring people whom you trust to be a good fit for the culture. Equally or even more important is for you to be decisive and quick in moving people out of the organization if they turn out to be a bad fit.

I understand that this can be a tough ask in a fast growing organization or an MNC with hundreds of employees being hired every day. However, in that case, as a leader, we still need to find time ourselves or hand-hold the local CEO/MD at the country/department to ensure that they meet and talk to every person that is being hired to ensure that there is no cultural conflict.

This is one of those activities that in the face of it doesn’t seem very significant, however in the long term there is no other action of the leader that can have the impact this one action can have.

So, in my opinion, the most important decision that we make as leaders is “Whom to Hire” & “Whom to Fire”

So, what is your hiring mantra? Do you hire for attitude or for culture? Do you know what is the culture that you want to cultivate in your organization? Do you know what kind of people will thrive in such a culture?

IF the answer to any of the above questions is a “NO”, now is a time for you to start thinking towards finding an answer. In the long term this is what will make the distinction between a good leader and a great leader.

In your opinion, what is the most significant action that a leader could do and why?

PS: Watch Tom Peters Talk about hiring the last One Percenters

Three Things That I Look in a Person Before Hiring

I read a wonderful post by Shane Parrish titled “Warren Buffet: The three things I look for in a person“.

Here he shares three qualities that Buffet looks in a person:

  • Integrity
  • Intelligence
  • Energy

He also thinks that without the first, the other two don’t matter much.

This reminded me of my mentor and his principle’s while deciding to work with someone. His list was as below, in the order of importance:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Ambition

Again, he said that without the first, the other two are a sure recipe for disaster. However, when you add that in the mix, it plays the role of a “Philosopher’s Stone” and transforms the person.

Strangely, these are exactly the qualities that I look in a sales executive.

You can’t infer a person’s ability to sell by looking for these qualities. However, in my opinion, if you have these three qualities, one can succeed in any role that they get into. If you observe, none of these is a skill. They constitutes our character.

Skills can be learnt, but character needs to be built and it takes a long time to build one’s character.

Now, the question is how do you check for these qualities before you hire someone.

Its easy to check if someone is ambitious or passionate from their past works, social profiles and the initial discussions. The most critical and difficult thing to check for is the integrity of a person.

My mentor did a few things to check the integrity of the person:

  • He would leave a 100 rupee bill in an empty room and get the person to wait in the room. The currency is not on the table but in a place where it will  be definitely be seen and observe what the person does with the bill. This tells a lot about the person and his integrity. 
  • He would get one of his assistants to serve coffee/tea to the person and that person would deliberately spill some tea or coffee and observe the reaction. He always used to say that the true identity of a person comes through in their conduct with people weaker than themselves.
  • In the middle of the conversation he would plan to receive a call on his phone and get all worked up about a situation on the phone and react in a way that he would not want to react/behave. He would then start chatting about the situation with the person and gradually bring up how he reacted and ask this person what he thought about his action. The response will say a lot about the integrity and character of this person.

Some other interesting ways to try and understand the person that i have found helpful for me are:

  • Get someone from the team to talk to the person informally before the actual interview over a cup of coffee. This conversation will provide a lot more insight into the person than a formal conversation. 
  • Make the person wait for a few hours with no one to talk to or meet. And then put them in pressure by cancelling the interview by giving some flimsy reason. The reaction to this situation tells a lot about the person than any formal interview could. (Though, post that prank, you do let your hair down and continue the interview with him or her, for sure).

What do you do to screen your hires? Do share what has worked for you in the past by commenting below or tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.

PS: Video of Warren Buffet talking about the importance of Integrity: