Find the hidden gems

We all know people who interview well but are bad at the job.

And people who would be great at the job but don’t interview well.

And part of being a great interviewer is to find these hidden gems.

Because you will not only hire someone who is skilled, they will also be motivated that you saw something in them that others did not.

And the key to identify this person in an interview is to focus not on what is wrong with this person, but instead on what “could be right”.

So whenever you ask a question and their answer falls short of a good answer, ask again. Ask it in a different way. Don’t jump to conclusions that this person is not suitable.


You: “Why did you decide to join company X?”

Interviewee: “Because it was a better opportunity.” (Boring)

You: “Why did you see it as a better opportunity?”

Interviewee: (2 min long answer about their work, but not selling themselves)

You: “What did you achieve there that you didn’t include in your CV?”

It’s easy to forget that our goal as an interviewer is to find the right talent, not to test if someone has good interview skills. There’s a big difference.

Hope this helps you identify hidden gems and a wider pool of talent.

Maybe you need a room

Last year, something surprising happened when I shifted from an open desk to working in my own room.

“Modern” thinking says that a leader who sits in the open is an approachable leader, and a leader that sits in a room is an unapproachable one.

But since moving into a room, I have had more meaningful conversations with our people. Big problems were resolved faster and communication became more transparent.

Why is that?

In the past, when I was sitting in the open, many people found it difficult to have deep conversations, because they found it awkward to shift to a room to speak privately. Others would start to wonder what the conversation was about.

Now that I am already in a room, they can walk in at any time, and jump into deep and transparent conversations immediately.

Therefore I don’t think it’s about whether we can judge whether a leader is approachable or not based on whether they sit in the open or in a room. All this is superficial.

It’s about the leaders’ actual personality. An unapproachable leader who sits in the open will remain unapproachable. There are many who sit in the open and say they are approachable but employees don’t feel welcomed when speaking to them.

So if you are approachable, perhaps working in a room actually helps your employees communicate better with you.

Something for companies who want to adopt open cultures to think about. Don’t do something because other companies are doing it.

Have to consider whether it will actually work for your culture and leaders personality.

We are not trying to be a fun place to work

I’ve been criticised before about why I would create a fun work environment at WOBB and then contradict myself by not wanting to hire people who want to join us because it’s fun.

This is a big misunderstanding.

We are not trying to be a fun place to work.

We are trying to build a successful company. And to do that, we need the most talented people to come together, unite and work towards a common goal.

But something magical happens when you put together a talented, positively driven team who energise each other.

You start to notice laughter. You see smiles and people build friendships. Friends that encourage each other.

The “fun” is simply a by-product of this unity towards a common goal.

Someone who wants to join a company because it’s fun will actually disrupt this unity because they are here for the wrong reason. And in a strange way, take away the “fun”.

Also, companies that try too hard to be fun may be missing the point. We can’t force people to unite by throwing parties.

Focus on hiring talented people who want to join us to do great work, and unite them through common goals and shared values. Then watch as they make the culture become “fun”.

Why I don’t try to retain employees who want to leave

We’ve had talented employees leave our company and I often get asked why I barely try to retain them.

I’ve seen some employers almost beg employees to stay through counter offers and a promise of a great career.

In my opinion, this is bad. For both the employer and employee. It’s a downhill slope from this point on.

If they chose to stay because of your promises, you’ve created an unhealthy relationship where the employee will feel you owe them a career, even if they are delivering average work. After all, you convinced them to stay with a promise of a career.

They will have an inflated ego for doing average work which is bad for their long term career. And you will have to constantly deal with accepting average work as good work, bringing down the standards of the team.

A talented person who doesn’t want to be at your company is not as asset to you, and we should to learn to instead focus our time and attention on the people who actually want to be there.

The people who are loyal to you and believe in you are your real assets, and you owe THEM a career.

If they’re not skilled enough, then train them. Reward them. It’s a mistake to take your loyal people for granted and focus on trying to retain the people who want to leave.

Leaders shouldn’t sit in their office room

I’ve observed for a while now that some leaders just sit in the office with an empty schedule, stare at their computers and think they are being a good leader? Often just busy being an overpaid administrator looking at reports.

They would argue that it’s because they are delegating and empowering their teams. I think they are just making excuses to be lazy.

And there’s a difference between empowering teams and ignoring them. Especially in core activities that are important to the business.

Leaders should be out there where the action is, where value is being created for the business.

In a manufacturing business, the place to be is the factory floor where the products are being built. In a professional services or sales orientated firm, leaders should be out there on the field meeting their clients. In retail, it’s the shop floor where customers experience the company’s products.

Be around all the real action that is creating value for the business. Support the team. Observe what issues they face, see what they cannot see. Give input that will improve the value creation process of the company.

Leading means being at the front, not at the back.

The mother and her child

Once, while at a cafe, I accidentally overheard a conversation between a mother and her son. (The tables were so close!)

The son was complaining about how his job sucks and how routine and boring it was. There was a lot of negativity.

He was young man, I imagined it was his first job.

She was patient and I could hear her trying to correct her son’s mindset. But he wasn’t listening, insisting that the reason he was not successful was due to the job and company.

In the end, with a sad voice, she said:

“I know this sounds hard, but jobs are hard. You wanted this job from the beginning and you knew there were going to be parts that were boring. You knew this, and you wanted the job.
You are the captain of your own ship. You can decide to change jobs, but if the next job is not routine, then you might start saying that it’s stressful and there is no guidance.
“But whether you stay or leave, you can’t keep complaining. You have to make a decision and work hard. No job is perfect.”
I’m not sure if her son understood her, but I could feel her sadness because she’s trying to help her son be happy and have the right mindset.

Parenting never stops and parents carry the immense (often emotional) responsibility of guiding their children through life.

The best leadership advice

Many years ago when I was in Silicon Valley, someone asked one of our mentors what was his one most important advice for business leaders to succeed? He replied:

“Too many people want to be Steve Jobs and believe behaving like an a**hole will help them build a billion dollar business. So here’s my advice…. You’re not Steve Jobs, and nobody wants to work for an asshole. So don’t act like one.”

I sometimes meet “leaders” who are rude for no obvious reason at all, to show dominance over other people, as though they are afraid that their position as the boss will be threatened.

That is not a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness and insecurity.

Leaders with true strength feel secure knowing that others count on them to lead. That’s the only path to a loyal and motivated team.

Don’t promote someone based on how well they speak

Don’t promote someone based on how well they speak or how they carry themselves. Promote people based on their efforts and the results they produce for your company.

When we promote someone based on our “gut feeling” rather than actual results, we create situations where office politicians who don’t achieve much for the company (and just have good relationships with the boss) can get ahead, and your real contributors get side lined.

Before promoting someone, ask ourselves “What did this person actually achieve for us? Is my decision based on my emotions or facts?”.

Don’t get distracted or blindsided by people that speak eloquently. And remind yourself that just because someone speaks well, doesn’t mean they are a good leader. Because leadership is more than just being able to “sound capable”. You actually have to BE capable.

Learn to say “no”

Perhaps to most empowering thing we can all learn today, is how to say “no”.

Too often we agree to things because we don’t want to offend, or come across as uncooperative.

But even though in the short term you risk offending the other person, in time they will see that you are strong and have your own principles and priorities. And they will learn to respect you.

Say no to friends that are a bad influence.

Say no to partners that want to win while you lose.

Say no to colleagues that take advantage of you by asking you to prioritize their work over your own.

Speak up and tell people what you want. Take back control of your life. Guard your time like it’s the most precious resource you have. Because it is.

How often do we see nice people get taken advantage of because they can’t say no?

Don’t worry about the people who will abuse your company culture

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns businesses have when I talk to them about building a good company culture, is that they think SOME of their employees are going to abuse it.

I get that.

The business world is tough and unforgiving. If your employees start abusing your culture and become less productive, your clients don’t care, your investors don’t care and ultimately if your company can’t deliver, the market will punish you for it.

But stopping yourself from creating the best culture that MOST of your people are going to love and thrive in, just because you’re worried that a small handful of people may abuse it, is not a good strategy.

Your good people are not going to abuse it, in fact, it will energise them and make them more productive. And the bad ones only make up a small percentage (maybe 10%) and are going to find a way to do bad things, whether or not you try to have a good culture.

I’ve made the mistake of introducing rules (that “damaged” our trust-based culture) just to control bad behavior but in the end, only the good people get punished, and the abusers still found different ways to bypass those rules.

Create and defend your company’s culture for your good people, do what you can to help them succeed, and those who abuse your culture will soon find that they don’t fit in.