Hire for passion and commitment first, experience second, and credentials third. There is no shortage of impressive CVs out there, but you should try to find people who are interested in the same things you are. You don’t want to be simply a stepping stone on an employee’s journey toward his or her own (very different) passion. Asking the right questions is key: What do you love about your chosen career? What inspires you? What courses in school did you dread? You want to get a sense of what the potential employee believes.
Once you have the right people, you need to sit down regularly with them and discuss what is going well and what isn’t. It’s critical to take note of your victories, but it’s just as important to analyze your losses. A fertile culture is one that recognizes when things don’t work and adjusts to rectify the problem. As well, people need to feel safe and trusted, to understand that they can speak freely without fear of repercussion.
The art of communication tends to put the stress on talking, but listening is equally important. Great cultures grow around people who listen, not just to each other or to their clients and stakeholders. It’s also important to listen to what’s happening outside your walls. What is the market saying? What is the zeitgeist? What developments, trends, and calamities are going on?
3. Tend to the weeds
A culture of passion capital can be compromised by the wrong people. One of the most destructive corporate weeds is the whiner. Whiners aren’t necessarily public with their complaints. They don’t stand up in meetings and articulate everything they think is wrong with the company. Instead, they move through the organization, speaking privately, sowing doubt, strangling passion. Sometimes this is simply the nature of the beast: they whined at their last job and will whine at the next. Sometimes these people simply aren’t a good fit. Your passion isn’t theirs. Constructive criticism is healthy, but relentless complaining is toxic. Identify these people and replace them.
1. Titles are meaningless but expectation setting is crucial.
All of our YouSendIt business cards read "cofounder" until the fateful day a well-meaning angel investor asked “Who’s the CEO here?” We then did the title thing for fundraising optics, a mutually agreed upon, really bad idea.
What we should have agreed on were roles and expectations before the company was formed. Mehdi and I had that talk concerning PunchTab when we sat down for the very first time. Sort this out with everyone who is early at the company, otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time dancing around the issues.
Michael Mahoney, vice president of Consumer Marketing and seven-year veteran of GoHealthInsurance.com, says it actually was a deciding factor when he took the job. “I think it really helps instill in new employees the same values we had during the first years at our company," he says. Mahoney contends employees schedule vacation more strategically based on their workload. “When you consider when you can best take vacation as opposed to when you must, you end up able to take time off without affecting performance.”
Which often means people are actually on the clock more than ever. Shah admits that he works from home “a lot,” often putting in odd hours: “Until about 2 a.m. every night, and just about every weekend.” Fitton, founder of the Twitter app store Oneforty, which was acquired by Hubspot, was actually using a day off for emergency childcare during this interview–hardly a day at the beach.
Likewise, Mahoney says, “I’m working harder than ever, but I probably will take a few more days off this year,” though some of his colleagues have taken weeks off to go overseas. While Rosenblatt has taken “off” over a month, she says, “I always feel pressure to work even harder when I get back, even if there isn’t more work.”
Worker bees may be buzzing happily, but eventually everyone needs a real break. That’s why the 17-year-old Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, established “The Fool’s Errand” five years ago. Spokesperson Alison Southwick says it’s a monthly ritual where, at a meeting of all 250 employees, one name is drawn from a hat. That person must take off two consecutive weeks sometime in the ensuing month. Southwick says it’s purpose is twofold. “First, it helps make sure that people ARE taking time off, clearing their heads, and recharging their batteries. Second, it helps us fight against single points of failure within the company. When you suddenly take two weeks off, you need to make sure that other people around you understand what you do so that the company doesn’t come to a screeching halt if you’re gone,” she explains.
But, mostly, it is fun. “Imagine being told you must take two weeks off right away. It’s two weeks to do whatever you want: tackle a life-long dream, learn something new, or just relax at home,” Southwick says.
The Motley Fool’s Head “People Fool” Lee Burbage asserts, “The idea of vacation days is a flawed concept from the start. Fools have the freedom to plan their lives how it works best. We trust them to understand the demands of their role and plan accordingly. If you have a big deadline or target date for a project, then you probably know that would be a good day to be at the office.”
Mahoney agrees. Unlimited vacation fosters productivity and loyalty because it favors results over input. “We don’t judge employees based on the number of lines of code they write, but instead on the impact their innovative ideas have on our users,” he says. “If we trust employees to make the right decisions with the time they spend at work in pursuit of our aggressive goals, we can trust them to make responsible decisions about when they choose to take time off of work.”