Know Precisely What You are Looking For

Before advertising for a person to fill this newly created position, I needed to first establish precisely what kind of person I was looking for. Technical skills are important, however the person’s character, the aggregate of their qualities, was going to be vital in a small team environment. This person would need to be able to work with me as much I would need to work with him or her. What this meant was that I had to do some heavy lifting of my own to first understand myself so that I selected someone who would compliment me, tolerate and accept me for who I am, and care for me.

I’m a left brain dominant person. I suspect that has been strongly influenced by over two decades of rigid command and control structures in the Air Force which have made me desire and yearn for greater logic and order elsewhere in my life. I can proudly say that my cupboards and drawers still meet the standards that would satisfy a military skills instructor performing a block inspection. It is important for me to understand that this has become a preference of mine that biases my thinking and, and I must be aware of it when choosing a person to work with. Although I needed more creativity in my life, it would not be fair to select a person who thrived on creative messes and a lack of order and structure.

I have high expectations for myself in my work. Consequently, I am my own worst critic. I have a strong desire to continually improve my practises, and I am easily frustrated with people who make the same mistake twice in a row. I apply myself to my work for many hours in the day because I love what I do. Therefore, I believe I deserve to have nice material things around me. I don’t like extravagant things, but I like to reward myself with nice things that acknowledge that working hard for others can reward me as well. I also want the same for the people I work with. So when I work with them, I want them to have nice things, stay in nice places and know their investment in me is worth it.  It will help greatly to have someone who appreciates the same things for them self and would strive to create the same for others.

Despite working with large numbers of people continually, I am a natural introvert. I love my work and engaging with people however I really love my time away from the stage. I source the majority of my energy from within, which means I like to withdraw from time to time to reflect. This is why my jet ski has been such a positive influence in my life. Although I do frequently go out on the ocean on my jet ski with my best mate Rob and his jet ski, I still am very much alone for most of it. I use that time to solve the problems of the world. So whilst it is important for this person to spend a lot of their time with me, he or she will need to be comfortable with me wanting quiet time or at the very least, or to engage in a conversation that supports reflection.

I recognised that I had developed, and still do have, rather fixed views of the world around me. As much as we don’t like to admit it, the older I get, the less in touch I am with the younger generations. I was, and still am now, very comfortable with what I believe to be right. However my ideas for ‘creating right’ in the world needed constant challenging. I therefore didn’t need a yes person by my side; I needed someone who also cared about why I was doing the work I did, yet could and would challenge what I was doing and how I was doing it. Whilst I needed someone with the same values who aspires to similar things, an alternate world view through a different lens, would help to inform the future decisions I make around leadership. I know through experience that not all things work the same way for all people. So I needed to broaden my scope, particularly around gender, social attitudes and age. It was important this person could broaden the scope of my thinking.

When it was all said and done, it was still important that this person would get on with the job even if we didn’t agree on everything. I of course, needed to be ethical and justify any decision I made. However this person needed to be open to also seeing the world differently. Whilst I required robust discussion about all things, we would also need unity around the decisions I make despite not seeing eye to eye. It was important that I listened and explained my decision, however it was also important that he or she could move forward with that.

Finally, my work is not a job; it is how I choose to live my life. I haven’t felt like I’ve had a job that I must go to for over a decade, because there is little distinction between my work and play time. It is because of this, that I am prepared to communicate with clients at random times of the day and the week. I don’t work long days; I live with an inherent flexibility that suits my way of life. Some days are long, some are short. Some are on the road, some are at home. If I get off my jet ski and there is an email, I respond to it. The person who works along side me will need to accept that truth about me. He or she will need to understand this is not a job, it is a way of life that is purposeful and focused.

When I reflected on all of this, I began to think that finding this person might be more difficult than I first thought. It was going to make for an interesting interview.

Listen to Those Closest to You

Shortly after I justified the need for a new position to myself, I shared the news with my wife, Cassandra and my daughter, Erin. I made a general statement that I needed support to progress my business goals. Once the family interrogation process was well underway, Erin suggested that I could employ her friend Sam. I recall feeling defensive and highlighted to Erin that I was concerned about entering into a professional relationship with someone who she had a close personal relationship with. I didn’t know Sam myself, however I didn’t want to create an uncomfortable situation for Erin if things didn’t work out between Sam and I.

As I have come to learn, when Erin sets her mind on something, she rarely gives up on it. Cassandra and I have often discussed how we believe Erin has lived a previous life because of the way she stuns us with her wisdom and rationale. Subsequently, I’ve always respect her life views and can recall many occasions where she has shifted my paradigm with a different world view. As it turned out, the discussion in relation to Sam, was about to achieve the same kind of paradigm shift.

Erin grew up in a household where both her parents ran their own businesses and she’s seen the effort required to make it work. By good fortune, she has embraced the same work ethic and has today, successfully built a business of her own. So when Erin explained that she had previously worked with Sam at McDonalds and knows her to be a person with a good work ethic, I knew to take her seriously. I recall Erin saying, ‘Dad, I know you better than most people and know Sam would be a good fit for you.’

I began to feel that Erin might have a good point. We are very close and she does know me very well. I began to realise the value in having someone close to me to help identify a person who can complement my personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. My only wish at the time was for the candidate to be anyone other than a friend of Erin’s. I decided to sit on the idea for a few days, however it didn’t take long for Erin to follow up on the matter. The next weekend, Erin saw Sam at a social gathering and decided to mention I was looking for support. She explained to Sam what I do, how I do it and why I do what I do, and Sam indicated an interest. So, Erin came home and invested more time convincing me that I should meet Sam. Erin confronted me with the detail of my strengths and weaknesses and explained why Sam’s strengths would dovetail perfectly with mine. She’d pinned me down perfectly giving me an unprecedented degree of self-awareness.

Erin then outlined Sam’s intelligence, calmness, strong morals and principles, listening and organisational skills. It sounded very appealing and I decided that I wanted to give this a shot. The idea of employing someone much younger with a different world view was growing on me because of the potential it offered in terms of expanding my thinking. So, with Erin’s assistance, I connected with Sam via email and a phone call shortly after to arrange an initial face to face meeting. I realised that Erin knowing Sam was an advantage in this case, however it was still clear to me that any decision to employ her was mine, not Erin’s. Having said that, I began to consider the value of using Erin to assist me to interview other candidates if my meeting with Sam didn’t work out. Such is the value I found in listening to someone close to me, who knows me better than anyone else and cares enough about me to protect me.

Decide for Yourself

It has been said that all good things come to those who wait. Well, patience isn’t one of my strengths. Waiting for good help to arrive in my business certainly had its frustrations, tested my patience and, to a larger degree, really challenged my self-belief.

Those frustrations washed away completely on the day I met Sam Holzberger. I’d arranged to meet her for the first time, at a local Coffee Club, to interview her and for her to interview me. I had no idea what she looked like so I decided to arrive early to allow her the chance to spot me easily in a crowd. In addition to all the qualities Erin had described about Sam, she also mentioned she was tall, slim and blonde. I freely admit that I was concerned about how intimidating it would be for a young woman to be meeting an older man for a job interview, knowing this would be a one-on-one role. I wanted to make sure she was comfortable enough to be herself so I planned for a casual first meeting in a public space.

I had a casual job lined up for Sam, intended to be a testing opportunity for me to determine whether or not I wanted to employ her longer term. I knew I had to appear authentic and invest up to an hour with Sam, however, I turned out that I knew within fifteen minutes of meeting her, that I would employ her full time. Whilst Erin was correct in everything she described about Sam, it was still my decision to make. My quick decision was influenced by the way she dealt with me. Whilst a little nervous, she didn’t appear intimidated at all and demonstrated acute social skills. She asked questions with a genuine curiosity, before I could invite her to ask me any questions. She wasn’t ticking boxes. This young lady was interviewing me as much as I was interviewing her and that really impressed me.

I learned about Sam’s interest in following her father’s career in the Australian Federal Police. I also learned about her previous study at university in architecture. She also had a small business of her own in fashion. To some people, these things might indicate that Sam wouldn’t be around for long. I, on the other hand, viewed those interests as highly valuable for full time employment. From these conversations I learned that Sam is a good ethical person who prefers to do the right thing and make a difference. She enjoys structure in her life, she likes designing things and improving them, and she appreciates nice things. In addition to that, she arrived to the interview with a folder of information. Clearly, she values being organised. I knew Sam would be perfect for me, provided I create a safe environment for her to freely express these things in her work. But would I be perfect for her in terms of long term employment? Well, as is always the case, the responsibility for ensuring long term employment is mine, not hers. That all comes down to how I treat Sam.

I could finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I could feel my self-belief restoring quickly as I began to visualise my programs improving, my first book being completed and The 15 Disciplines becoming a reality.