Did you ever meet someone who was doing exactly what they were meant to do? If you’ve ever been responsible for hiring someone who was a perfect, passionate fit for their job, how did that make you feel … and what effect did it have on the person, the organization, and everyone they came in contact with?
“I Love This Job”
A scene I’ll never forget: Cold, dark mid-winter morning. Sophomore year in an all-boys, Catholic high school. “Modular” (trailer-like) classroom. Western Civ, second period. Teacher walks into the room — and slams his grade book on the desk! He had our attention. We all sit up, expecting angry words about poor grades on an exam, or assignment, or something like that. What does he say instead? Loudly, boldly he exclaims: “I love this job!”
(He might have actually said, “I love this place” — but the point is the same, of course).
A Tale of the “Right Fit”
Mr. Haig. 24 years old. Skinny. Passionate. Utterly sincere. Being paid probably a dollar above the minimum required by law to be paid “salary” and still be considered an “exempt” employee. And he had just declared to a roomful of adolescent boys that he loved his job. To say that we had never seen anyone do that before would be an understatement.
For the next few minutes, he explained whatever it was that had him so excited. I forget the exact situation that stirred his passion that morning, but his point was essentially this: It was the “the mission,” not “the money.” He knew he could be earning more money teaching elsewhere — and, being a bright and capable guy, he certainly knew he could be earning substantially more in an entirely different occupation.
Yes, he was single and still living with his parents, so he could “afford” to choose mission over money. But the point is, he felt so aligned with the mission of his employer, and he felt so aligned with its culture and values, that he just had to tell someone about it … and on that particular winter morning, the “someone” was a roomful of 10th grade boys.
Now, all in all, the school was a very positive, mission-driven place. (We considered ourselves “the school with a difference,” and while that was never quite explained in any greater detail, we all came to see and feel its truth through people such as Mr. Haig). Yet and still, even for our school, this was a pretty startling exclamation — and one that has stuck with me 30 years later.
Lessons for HR
He was exactly right, of course. He had a job that he was very good at. He cared deeply about his subject (his “job duties,” if you will) and his students (his “customers”). He believed in the mission of the institution, and he clearly saw his role contributing to the success and sustenance of the organization. And things occurred regularly to reinforce the mission to sustain and encourage him through any lulls or “dry periods.” What job could be better than that?
Any of us with any responsibility for recruiting or talent management processes strive to put the most highly-qualified, “best-fit” candidate in place in every position in our organizations. With thousands of resumes flooding across our desks for every opening these days, this is often a daunting task. Given the vagaries of human behavior, emotion, and motivation, it is often just short of impossible to look into someone’s mind (much less their heart) with any amount of precision — the last interviewing techniques or personality-testing insights notwithstanding — and know for certain whether they’ll perform well in a role, much less whether they will thrive.
We all know this, of course — but we have to keep heart. For, when we get it right, it can affect the lives of the people involved (employees, co-workers, managers, customers) in a deep and meaningful way … even 30 years later.
- Catholic Schools and Teachers: They “get” Passion-Driven Learning (thepassiondrivenleader.wordpress.com)