Talent -- the right talent -- is a scarce resource. Companies want “the best” and they’ll spend boatloads of money to find it, yet the metrics by which talent are defined changes daily. It’s not easy identifying what your business needs when the competitive landscape is constantly in flux and you’re just trying to stay afloat.
The question remains, though. How do you, as a startup, attract the right people who not only buy what you’re “selling,” but who also want to work the long hours and suffer as many headaches as you do just to get the entrepreneurial ball rolling?
You need to set the bar (i.e. standards) high and not lower it. When the expectation of newbies entering the company is that of success, you naturally attract the types of people who aspire achievement. When Ernest Shackleton attempted to be the first explorer to trek across Antarctica, he needed a crew of like-minded individuals who expected adversity and were willing to endure hardship. In fact, to solicit his ideal crew, Shackleton posted the following help wanted sign:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success."
The purpose this job advertisement really served was self-selection. Any respondent courageous enough to volunteer for an interview already possessed the mental fortitude of daring to do something that others wouldn’t.
So, how do you attract the right talent without stepping foot into Antarctica? Remember, how you -- as a leader -- choose to show up is everything. Your people will assume whatever mood you bring to work on any given day -- positive or negative -- so make sure you spread the right one. Here are three “good” toxins to share with your employees:
Be a student of the game. A startup isn’t a nine-to-five job. A team leader I once had the privilege of working for had a motto of being "All in, all the time," and that’s the sort of mentality startup employees need if they want the business to last. Recall that 79 percent of startups fail to see their 10-year anniversaries, according to StatisticBrain.com. If you want people to immerse themselves in the business, to take it home with them and work on and improve for the next day, then you should be the first one in the office and the last one to leave.
Analyze, but be ready to adapt. Due diligence is important, but all the data in the world can’t protect your business from the unknown unknowns that Murphy likes to spring on us. Smart leaders understand that not all the facts are present come decision time, which is why ad-hoc solutions are sometimes better than no solutions (which is sometimes a solution in itself).
Adopt an attitude of service. In the SEAL Teams, one’s reputation is partially determined by the order of priorities to which he adheres. Namely, if he is one of those people who places himself first ahead of others, then a quick attitude adjustment is needed -- and typically made by other teammates. The order of priority in the teams -- and in business, for that matter -- should work from the outside in, large to small: mission, team, me. Placing others before self has a contagious effect that spreads outward.
Culture fit is everything, and good leaders build a following because of who they are and what they stand for. If you can show others that you are a perpetual student who is flexible to learn and willing to serve others, then you will inevitably attract the right talent.
Related: 6 Ways a Leader Should Show Up