Falling In Love

What is it about small business owners that causes so many of us to fall in love with the people we hire? I don’t mean this in the romantic sense; I mean it in the best-thing-since-sliced-bread sense. There was a time when I was the poster child for this.

Business love frequently starts early in a career when many of us are inexperienced both in business and in hiring and managing people. There can be such a learning curve that the employees we surround ourselves with have a way of looking like All Stars, causing us to become enamored with their talents for many reasons.

Naivete. This basically breaks down to the old saying “we don’t know what we don’t know.” As novice business owners many of us learn business lessons on the fly. Hiring mistakes can be one of the more painful lessons, especially for owners who didn’t go to business school or have a job in a larger company where we could learn them.

We think our new employee is the most beautiful and competent employee in the world—especially when they show up, do their job, and don’t complain. What’s not to love about that?! But early admiration can cause us to be blind to otherwise glaring talent deficiencies or even character flaws because we’re just thrilled to have someone hired.

Desperation. We seem to be most vulnerable to falling in love when we’ve been looking for someone for a long time, when we’re exhausted, or when we’ve had a bad experience with a former employee.

Performance standards and high expectations that were once non-negotiable are quickly tossed aside in the interest of getting somebody, anybody, to lighten our load. We become enamored because the new hire is like a salve to our immediate pain and looks amazing compared to our previous poor experience.

Divine Intervention. You know this one. Maybe you’ve even been a victim of it. We convince ourselves that Divine Intervention played a role in finding this perfect match. It goes like this: we need a specific position filled. Our spouse or someone we know happened to run into an old friend whose brother knows a guy who’s out of work … and bingo! A match made in heaven! How could it be any more perfect?

Before giving your next hire the keys to the shop or sharing all your passwords, here are a couple suggestions to help avoid unnecessary disappointment and heartache.

  • View the recruiting and interviewing process like the courting phase of a romantic relationship. Really take the time to get to know the candidate.
  • During the courting phase, realize that everyone is usually on their best behavior. It’s only once we spend time with someone, getting to know and understand them, that we can decide if they’re someone we want to commit to. In business, this might mean hiring or promoting them.

I’ve learned that whenever I’m head over heels in love with a candidate, that’s usually a signal that I’m overlooking something and need to take the time to look deeper. This doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means I might need to be more realistic about their capabilities and potential. There will be plenty of time later to fall in love.

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