Scary Jobs!

October 23, 2018

A job I had during my college days was working for the Fargodome - a sports and music venue in Fargo, ND.  It was very part-time, always under 20 hours/week, and often late at night or on weekends. About half my time was spent zipping in or zipping out the artificial turf - mindless and tedious work - but it paid pretty good on the per hour, and I worked with fun people.  

The remaining time was spent setting up or tearing down for music shows and other events.  Highlight: I met Ted Nugent in the parking lot one day - he was shooting his bow and arrow at animal targets, waiting for his crew to set up the show.  He was nice. The role I especially cherished - and nobody else wanted to do - was to climb the trusses behind the stage and adjust where the lights were pointing, and occasionally change bulbs or similar.  No safety lines, no training, no hazard pay - but I was an excellent tree climber and have almost no fear of heights - so it was a fun respite from what was otherwise a laborious role.  

But I recognize that for many, climbing up and hanging off a 30-foot high truss system built by roadies would be terrifying!  Years later, after I’d started my banking career, I was offered a role that to me, was much scarier. Compliance Officer for the bank.  Review the loan files for documentation errors and tracking data, create and file reports with upstream bank officials and regulatory agencies.  I politely demurred, suggesting that someone with more experience in banking, and more particularly - attention to detail - might be a better fit. Perhaps our Operations Manager, Leslie.  Thank you Leslie for saving me from that scary job!  

One thing that’s the same for everyone - is that we’re different than everybody else!  We are born different, we have differing experiences and interests, and how and where we find fulfillment in our work varies wildly.  Because of this, I’ve practiced and encouraged the use of a Person Description in job listings. A job description is great, but if you really want to find great fitment for your team, make sure to include a person description.  Obviously, I’m not talking about age, or gender, or sexual preference here - but instead using words like outgoing, or great attention to detail, or comfortable learning new technologies - will help your applicants envision themselves in the role.  And using words from your mission and purpose in your posting will help applicants see themselves in the role - at your company.  

I recently hired a new intern, but prior to that - based on resumes and cover letters - I opted to interview two initial candidates.  The first was cut from similar cloth to my prior helper - in many ways a yin to my yang. She was quiet and maybe a little nervous, but had a warm personality and was detail oriented and comfortable with technology.  I was pleased with what she could bring to the role and I asked her to return the following week for a 2nd interview. The latter was a young man who’d written a stronger cover letter and had a higher GPA. He was clearly smart and confident and I liked him immediately.  I realized during the interview that he reminded me a lot of myself at that age - and then I thanked him for his time and let him know that I’d be making an offer to the other candidate. He impressed me enough that I introduced him to a business owner in my network who I knew could use his particular talents and where he’d be likely to find better fitment.  I’m now three weeks past that decision, and very pleased with the results so far.  

A phrase that I hear on occasion, when I ask the old question - “How are things going?” - is “Great -  I just need a clone of myself so I can catch up on all this work!” NO YOU DON’T!! You need someone different than you to do some of the things that you’re bad at - or that you avoid because you don’t enjoy those tasks.  As a leader, your primary job is to build a diverse team of individuals that can find purpose and fulfillment in their work, and then make sure they know where the team is headed. To think about it in football terms (tis the season) just imagine having a team full of cloned Tom Brady’s taking on any other team in the NFL.  Tom’s a stud, and would be a great choice at quarterback - but Von Miller is going to eat his lunch on the offensive line, and Aqib Talib is going to shut him down at wide receiver. I doubt they’d ever score, and Gurley is going to truck the GOAT every time when the team of Tom’s is on defense.  

So, make sure you understand your business model and operational must-do’s and then plug the right persons into the right roles.  Add vision and accountability and a fun work environment - and presto! - you’ve got a successful business! To your health, your peace and prosperity.

- Curt Bear

Founder, LoCo Think Tank

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