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Flinching, Part III

By Chuck Violand

November 7, 2016

One of the toughest teachers I ever had was my high school Latin teacher, Sam Rametta. Mr. Rametta would hold pop quizzes throughout his class. He’d call out your name, ask a question, and give you a score based on your answer. Heaven help you if you didn’t have an answer, or if you hesitated even for a nanosecond before responding. If so, he’d say “Hesitation is a miss” and give you a zero for that day’s score.

Mr. Rametta was a tough teacher, but I think he taught his students as much about life as he did about Latin. The cost of missed opportunities or showing up unprepared were just two of them. While earning a zero for a pop quiz in Latin class wasn’t fun, missing opportunities and showing up unprepared in business carries a much heavier cost. Especially when it comes to attracting highly talented people.

As our experience in running a business increases, our flinching takes on a different look. One that isn’t as obvious as our fear of having an employee leave, but that more subtly keeps us from attracting the kind of people we need in our companies.

Part of preparing to run a growing business is gaining a better understanding of ourselves and recognizing our strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. Some of the blind spots have to do with our management styles, and as a result, the kinds of people who are attracted to us and our companies. Without even being aware of them (which is why they’re called blind spots) these styles can keep us from hiring talented people.

As our companies grow, the motivations of the employees we need in them changes. In the early years, we might make do with people who are motivated by receiving a paycheck to cover their basic needs for food and shelter. But as our companies grow in size, they require workers who are motivated by the need to contribute, compete, and win. These are the employees who will hold us accountable to do the things we’re supposed to be doing, just as we hold them to the same.

If our blind spots include not wanting to be held to this level of accountability, or if we insist on controlling all the important decisions in the business, then we’ll struggle to attract and hold onto the best people. In other words, if we haven’t prepared ourselves for this level of execution, we’ll flinch when the opportunity presents itself.

While I may not remember how to conjugate verbs from Mr. Rametta’s Latin class, his lessons about being prepared have stayed with me to this day.

At some point, flinching when it comes to hiring great talent catches up with us. The best talent wants to play on a winning team. So, will we be recruiting talent, or will we be competing against it? Even with our current low unemployment rates there are still a lot of very talented people looking for the right team on which to play.

Ultimately, we’re faced with one of two choices when it comes to hiring: do we do what we know we need to by swallowing our fears and making the uncomfortable but right call to hire those who will push us and help move our companies forward? Or do we settle for feeling comfortable? As with so many other business decisions, the choice, and the direction of our company, is ours to make.